Sunday, June 16, 2024

Which Was The Greater Discovery – Butter Or Garlic

It isn’t an age old question – but the two are definitely a part of people’s lives.

Garlic bread is a delicious and a staple from Italian tables to the Olive Garden.  The combination of the two is a delight to the tongue, taste buds and tummy. But looking at them, which was the greater discovery – butter or garlic?

Every year, over 8 million tons of butter are consumed worldwide. And in the US in 2022, about 1.06 million tons of butter were manufactured, up from 676,000 tons  in 2005. In 2021, world production of garlic was 28 million tons, with China alone accounting for 73% of the total. Garlic consumption has more than tripled in the United States since 1980 and now stands at about 2.5 pounds per capita. Around 24,000 to 26,000 acres of garlic are planted annually in the United States with a total production of around 200,000 tons.

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“Discovering butter is hands down the more important discovery, allowing for massive leaps in flavor and texture opportunities in both sweet and savory preparations. Don’t get me wrong, garlic is delicious, but replace it with another ingredient in most recipes and the result is still delicious. Try and replace butter and people start to complain. I’d say that speaks for itself” shared noted chef and educator Justin Khanna.

Photo by Brodie Vissers via Burst

Butter has many uses including a condiment or melted for frying or coating. Butter is also used in baking, such as in cakes and pastries, or for enriching sauces.  Garlic is used primarily to add a distinctive flavor.

“Shallots are for babies; Onions are for men; garlic is for heroes.” Unknown

Records show garlic has been cultivated in Mesopotamia for at least 4,000 years. Use of garlic in China and Egypt also dates back thousands of years. Well-preserved garlic was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun (King Tut) and used by the Greeks and Romans.

“Garlic is the catsup of intellectuals.” Unknown

Butter, according to author Elaine Khosrova goes back to Neolithic-era Africa 8,000 B.C  A later Sumerian tablet, dating to approximately 2,500 B.C., describes the butter making process starting from milking of cow. Contemporary Sumerian tablets identify butter as a ritual offering.

In the Mediterranean, unclarified butter spoils quickly, unlike cheese, making it impractical in preserving the nutrients of milk. Ancient Greeks and Romans seemed to have considered butter a food fit more for the northern barbarians. A play by the Greek comic poet Anaxandrides refers to Thracians as boutyrophagoi, “butter-eaters”. In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder calls butter “the most delicate of food among barbarous nations” and goes on to describe its medicinal properties.

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In an informal poll, butter slightly outpaced garlic, with more men voting for butter.  Surprisingly, they referenced the complexity of making the dairy product as opposed to just finding garlic.

Tech engineer Brandon in Seattle sums up his thoughts with “Because it had a process which needed to be discovered. It also requires animal husbandry.”


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