What I Eat and Why: Garlic

By Alain Braux
Photography by Cecilia Ciarlo

An excerpt from How to Lower your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food: A Practical Guide

Garlic’s culinary and medicinal attributes have been known since ancient times. The oldest mention of garlic was as far back as the time that the Giza pyramids were built. The Greeks and Romans were very fond of it as a medicine as well.

Have you ever tried pasta sauce without garlic? In France we would say: “c’est comme un baiser sans moustache” (it’s like a kiss without the mustache).

Garlic, as well as shallots, chives, leeks and onions, is part of the allium family. Allicin, one of the compounds released when a garlic clove is crushed or chopped, has a known anti-platelet effect. That is, it prevents platelets in our blood from sticking together (coagulating) and is known as a blood thinner. Garlic, in more than 1,200 studies, has proven to be LDL-lowering, antihypertensive (anti-high blood pressure), antioxidant (counter the negative effects of free radicals), antimicrobial (kills microbes) and antiparasitic (kills the bugs).

If at all possible try to find locally grown garlic. It will always be fresher and a little stronger than the type coming from China. Pick nicely shaped garlic heads, with no dried out or moldy cloves.

Honestly, being from La Cote d’Azur, I like mine raw, especially in salad dressing (vinaigrette) and mayonnaise, especially aïoli, a mayonnaise loaded with raw garlic that we French use with white fish, cold meat and cooked potatoes. If you are not used to preparing mayonnaise from scratch, you can buy good quality mayonnaise in a jar (Spectrum) and add crushed garlic cloves to it. It is also used liberally in the mayonnaise-like sauce called rouille, which means “rusty” in French. This sauce is used only for the famous soupe de poisson (fish soup), of which you will find hundreds of variations in the South of France. The two are inseparable. The proper way to eat soupe de poisson is to spread the rouille on top of toasted French baguette rounds, drop it in the soup and eat it all with a good spoonful of soup. Miam! (Yum!)