I’m a botanist, and a wild one. Always out in woods and meadows till dark. Everytime the same mistake: shops are closed now, what will I eat tonight? That’s how my passion for wild edibles begun. Simple as that! I had the biggest source of fresh, free and delicious food right at my hand all daylong, so why not collect some on my way, waiting for GPS to catch his satellites? What a fun!

Some research on the subject deepened my interest, getting to know historical, cultural and cooking facts. So here I am, to share my growing knowledge and my experiments (even the unsuccessful ones).

My kitchen laboratory

As you might have guessed my cooking-style is kind of “super healthy, a lot of veggies, superspeed recipes, might eat tomorrow, maybe i will bring it in my surveys, so it must be good also if it’s cold”.

Italian food, but finger-food style, if possible. Very easy-to bring or chat&eat food for parties with my friends. Hopefully some surprising weeds recipe ready in freezer, when friends rush unexpected at home.

I enjoy cooking experimental recipes in my kitchen laboratory!

Me and garlic

Yes, as you may have noticed the garlic never appears in my recipes . The reason is very simple: I’m intolerant to garlic! How do I know? I feel bad when I eat it, and it happens a lot more often than I’d like.

I am intolerant to garlic
I am intolerant to garlic

FOTO AGLIO – I am intolerant to garlic

And that’s the reason I have approached to the world of cooking …Semifinished products labeld with useless words as “natural flavors” are inaccessible to me.  Not to mention the frustrating experience of a dinner out.  And I am not taking advantage. I want to tell you my typical dinner at the restaurant, a kind of comedy that is repeated every time … at least for a laugh.

It usually begins like that:  hey, how about going out to dinner tonight? Yes, of course, how nice! And actually I’m really happy to go out with my friends for a nice evening of chatting, serious or futile discussions, laughter and joy. But heck, why always a dinner out? Couldn’t we jump with a parachute, go skiing or watch the stars through the cheap telescope bought at the discount store? Oh no, we are Italians, what’s better than a good eating party? True for many, but not for people with allergies, intolerants, vegetarians, vegans, celiacs, diabetics and … did I forgot anyone? After all we are a lot of persons, if you stop to think about it.

Here comes the menu: pizzoccheri (garlic), malfatti (garlic), ravioli (garlic in stuffing? Or in the sauce?), pasta with sauce (garlic mostly everywhere) … etc. I scroll it quickly, turning into a kind of mass spectrometer, analyzing all the possibilities and the risks associated with each individual recipe and I finally find a couple of promising dishes that might not poison me.

The waiter arrives and I discreetly explain my problem. Garlic? No, none, I’m positive! Fine, but would you please ask the chef, just to be sure? Otherwise I will take anything you have, as long as it does not contain garlic. He says yes, but he thinks “look at this nuisance, couldn’t she stay at home watching TV tonight, instead of coming to waste my time with her mania?”  Hey, I know he has not taken it seriously  and thinks I’m having fun harassing waiters and cooks . Ok, it doesn’t matter, I’m used to it.

So he comes back and says there is only a smaaaall amount of garlic, you cannot taste it at all. And the chef takes it out before serving the dish. OK, so I’ll explain it again: either there or not, I AM ALLERGIC, if  there’s some, no matter how much, I’m going into anaphylactic shock.

This is a small lie, but don’t want to explain to him that his pasta, even if it’s the best in the world, certainly is not worth a sleepless night, palpitations, 2 anti-inflammatory pills, neck pain and sinusitis for three days, resulting in a decrease in work performance. So, to settle things once and for all, anything’s just fine, only it shoul NOT contain any trace of garlic . I trust the chef, bring me anything he likes.

Yep, I trust him. Once a restaurateur who had undergone a process for a similar case, told me: I would never trust the chef, if I had such a problem. BRAVO. And what do you do? Never have a dinner out for your entire life? Bring a pair of safety sandwiches, in case a business lunch occurs? And when you take a several days holiday? I did not think how simple could be the matter: next time I go to the restaurant, I will pull out my lunchbox and take a picnic while my friend are feasting. Thus saving money and humiliation.

Next time i will bring my lunchbox
Next time i will bring my lunchbox

But let’s go back to the zealous waiter: he comes back victorious from the kitchen (again) and tells me that the chef will be able to cook a wonderful dish without garlic. GREAT, I’m happy and I can relax now, while everybody at the table is asking me “are you really allergic to garlic? Strange, it is not included in the official list of allergens … how do you know? Did you make a Food Intolerance Test?” Apart from the fact that, once again, I feel like I have to justify myself for some kind of crime, I smile and try to throw a joke: how do I know? I fell bad when I eat it! I do not need a doctor to confirm that actually I’m throwing up. To be honest, I don’t dislike at all the taste and smell of garlic, indeed. Often, before I knew that I had been poisoned, I devoured the dish greedily, praising the chef skills. Add insult to injury!

Here comes the dish, great! I dodged the plain pasta and the grilled chicken breast, which usually are the two most popular proposals. I taste the first forkfuls with immense pleasure, as long as my table neighbor says… Are you sure there’s no garlic in it? I can smell it … No, no, come on, the chef told me he would not use it, could be onion?. I TRUST. At the last forkful comes the waiter, a little ‘ out of breath, and says there was a problem in the kitchen: the dish contained garlic, however, very little . DAMNIT!

I appreciate the fact that he has taken the trouble to tell me, often they do not, and probably giggle happy and say: see it was not true? She didn’t die! Yeah, they do not know that the symptoms appear only after a few hours, after I paid the bill and got home, where the usual long suffering is to come. While he looks at me with cold sweat passing over his forehead what should I do? I smile and say do not worry, I will not die here. I drink two more glasses of wine, pay the bill and go home, hoping to be pretty drunk to fall asleep anyway. I will face it tomorrow. By now I’m used to it.

It seems a joke, right? Instead it’s just what happens 2 times out of 3. And here we come to the time that does not happen: in many years I have developed my yardstick about the quality of a restaurant and its chef. I understand that the kitchen of a restaurant is not like at home, I know. I understand the problems related to the use of semi-finished products with the famous words “natural flavors” in label. And I know that the chef, in a busy hour with many dish to prepare, does not have the time to read carefully all the labels of its pantry. But I highly doubt a restaurant that, including all ingredients present in the kitchen, do not have fresh vegetables, a piece of meat, milk, flour, butter, eggs, oil, salt, pepper and some “creativity”. And I feel sorry for a chef so insecure as to fully entrust his art to a single ingredient, as if he was not able to make a tasty dish without it. It looks so much like a form of slavery: slaves to garlic. It’s funny, indeed.

So I applaud the brave cooks who fed without poisoning me, with exquisite and imaginative dishes, giving me the rare experience of a beautiful evening without troublesome consequences. Discreet and generous artists, able to overcome with elegance, love and passion even an annoying snag like us “different”.


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