The wonder of garlic

April 1, 2020 · Print This Article

The first mouthful gave it away immediately. I had forgotten to put garlic into my ‘four bean chilli’. Unfortunately, there was no hiding from it: dinner that night was rather bland. As I mourned my missing ingredient, I began to ponder on the importance of garlic to my life. My wife and I have a vegetarian meal at least twice a week and garlic has become the ‘wonder’ ingredient: it turns a collection of vegetables or pulses into a proper meal.

Food has become very political over the last decade, with meat being discouraged from the world’s diet for various reasons. For some, a reduction in the consumption of processed meat is the route towards preventing various cancers. For others, it is all about reducing carbon emissions. My motivation wasn’t about saving the planet; it was a focus on my own health. To be honest, I don’t feel that I have made a radical change to my lifestyle, as I’m still eating fish and chicken for the rest of the week. And yes, red meat does normally make an appearance once a week.

Recently, I was horrified to discover that a major reason for the clearances of the Amazon rainforest is for cattle farming.[1] The world just can’t get enough beef and it has become unsustainable. Personally, I make sure my weekly treat of beef is grown in the UK. This choice had nothing to do with the crisis in the Amazon; it was an attempt to support British farmers. However, I am glad to learn that I am not contributing towards the environmental disaster in South America.

However, the politics of food is complicated. Another major contributor to the Amazon clearances is the expanding need for soya.[2] Given that soya is used as a substitute for meat, I find this both ironic – and disturbing. I realise that any choices that I make about diet need to be carefully considered. I hope that my personal choice is helping, rather than destroying, the planet. Am I doing enough? I don’t know. As a result, I continue to look for more small choices in lifestyle that could bring benefits to our planet.

I believe that this world – the whole universe – matters. Not just so that we leave it in a ‘good enough’ state for the next generation. Planet Earth is in itself intrinsically valuable. My faith tradition highlights that there is a ‘hidden hand’ behind the universe, that there is a reason as to why our world – and all of us on it – exist. Language struggles to explain this ‘hidden hand’; as a shorthand we use the word God. Somewhere in the past, it was documented that this mysterious benefactor called the world ‘very good’.[3] Earth is not worth saving just because humans need somewhere to live. Our planet has beauty, worth and meaning beyond all of that.

‘Going vegetarian’ twice a week was, in reality, all about me rather than about saving the Amazon rainforest. However, knowing that this change could be helping to make a difference has stirred me to stay with these dietary choices. Together, I believe that all of our small decisions can add up to make a significant impact. Therefore, garlic will remain on my shopping list, as it is the ingredient that turns my ‘four bean chilli’ into a tasty dinner. And it keeps me eating less meat as a result.

Ian Woodley

[2] Ibid.
[3] The Bible, Genesis 1:31
Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash
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