Italy’s Garlic Debate

There’s a debate going on in Italy at the moment, about garlic of all things.

The debate starts in the center of Rome at La Trattoria restaurant, one of the city’s trendiest restaurants known for its innovative Sicilian cuisine. La Trattoria’s chef, Filippo La Mantia, has shunned garlic as the basis of his dishes in favor of other natural ingredients such as citrus and other herbs.

La Mantia says that garlic is a leftover from when Italians were poor and used it to flavor their meager victuals. He says the average standard of living is high enough today that people can do without it. Italians consumed 108 million pounds of garlic in 2006, a 4 percent increase over the previous year, according to Coldiretti, Italy’s leading farmers association.

It’s always amusing to hear chefs talk about “lower class” food, considering the fact that nearly 100% of regional cuisines are based, not off of what a four star chef once cooked, but rather what the lower and middle class ate. La Mantia can cook and sell whatever he desires, but if he wants to cut out foods because they are “leftover from when Italians were poor”, then he’d also need to get rid of potatoes, polenta, rice, and a host of other similar products.