Translated from the Provencal dialect as “boiled water,” aïgo boulido is an unassuming broth of garlic and sage, enriched with eggs. But don’t be fooled by its simplicity: “Aïgo bouildo sauvo la vido”—“boiled water saves your life”—as the popular Provençal folk saying goes.
Anchored in the peasant food traditions of Provence, aïgo boulido was born from making use of humble and inexpensive local ingredients.
It is said that the soup was first invented by hikers venturing the trails of Provence. They would pick sage, bay leaves, and other drying herbs—known as the famed “herbes de Provence”—along their way, and boil them in spring water to eliminate any germs. Later, garlic, which also grows abundantly in the mountains of Provence, was added to the recipe, and the dish became adopted by locals, mothers, and grandmothers.
Today, aïgo boulido is still widely consumed in the south of France to aid digestion, ward off winter ills, and detox after days of feasting—or recover from a nasty hangover. It is most often enjoyed during the holiday season, to wrap up the big Christmas Eve feast, or as a post-holidays detox soup, as it is low in calories and has wonderful restorative properties, thanks to its two star ingredients: garlic and sage.
Garlic is a plant belonging to the allium family, related to onions, scallions, shallots, leeks, and chives. Throughout history, its use has been documented for both culinary and medicinal purposes by major civilizations like the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese.
Though low in calories (about four calories per clove), garlic is full of flavor and packed with nutrients and active compounds. Many studies show the benefits of adding garlic to your diet, including:
Boosting the immune system: Garlic grows in full sun, which means it is rich in minerals and vitamins, including vitamin C—essential in bolstering the immune system during cold winter days, and helping fight the common cold and flu symptoms.
Lowering blood pressure: Garlic’s active compounds, especially sulfur (responsible for its pungent smell), are known to have anti-inflammatory effects, thus helping to lower blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Lowering bad cholesterol: Garlic lowers bad cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Boosting bone health: It is also believed that garlic can increase estrogen levels in women’s bodies, improving bone health, especially for menopausal women.
When shopping for garlic, choose bulbs that are firm to the touch, with dry and unblemished skins. The heads should stay together and not break apart easily. Whole garlic heads should be kept at room temperature in a dry place and can last for months. Individual cloves, unpeeled, should be used within 10 days.