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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Garlic and olive oil as myths

Barthes analyzes the mythic properties of wine, milk, steak, and other foods in Mythologies. In the analysis I did with me class yesterday we looked at garlic and oil. Garlic is the fountain of health and associated with humble life. "Quítale el ajo y muerto has al aldeano." Plant your garlic on November 11, the day of Saint Martin. "Del gaznate para abajo, todo sopas de ajo."

Olive groves are the source of wealth. You inherit a house from your father, a vineyard from your grandfather, but an olive grove from your great-grandfather. Or "Viña la que plantaras, olvivar el que heredaras." You don't want to plant an olive grove, but rather inherit one. I'm assuming because they take a while to come into their own. When olives are harvested, even your nieces will have bridegrooms. Olive oil is a panacea. The remedy of aunt Mariquita, que con aceite todo lo quita. The best cook is the container in which you keep you oil.

There are proverbs about wine in Spanish, but not about beer. You should drink wine and eat raw garlic for health.

The mythic qualities are those that go beyond the pragmatic benefits and become transcendental.


Andrew Shields said...

Are there proverbs about beer in English?

Jonathan said...

I don't know! Are there in German?

Andrew Shields said...

I found a couple of beer ones in English here:


Not much there. Cry in one's beer the most common perhaps, and then small beer. I've come across the beer and skittles bit before, but not very often.

But the same site only has "wine and dine" and "new wine in old bottles," so perhaps it's not a complete list. :-)

As for German, I can't think of any offhand, but I'll see what my wife has to say.

Jonathan said...

Those are mostly idioms and not proverbs. They have one in Spanish I'm aware of "En Jerez beber cerveza, no cabe mayor simpleza."

Vance Maverick said...

"Malt does more than Milton can" has entered into the language. But more than proverbs and idioms, beer is a trope in English literature. Housewives in Lawrence making ale for their miner husbands; "ale, Christ, home, master" in the Portrait is (among many other concentrated allusions) a reflection on this.

We have wine in our proverbs via the Bible. Googling "cerveza proverbios" the first hit, curiously, was from the Biblical book of Proverbs.