It's true that it wasn't at all like Italian food, but this is a particularly bad example:
1. garum kinda lives on as colatura di alici, though the former was fermented, and the latter isn't 
2. Italian cuisine still contrast melon with salty food, just prosciutto, not fish
Then I learned biology, in particular the molecular nature of umami, and it makes perfect sense.
As a matter of fact the first written mention of pasta in Italy predates Marco Polo's birth by exactly one century (1154-1254).
Soma (Sanskrit: soma) or haoma (Avestan) was a Vedic ritual drink of importance among the early Indians. It is mentioned in the Rigveda, particularly in the Soma Mandala.
It is described as being prepared by extracting the juice from a plant, the identity of which is now unknown and debated among scholars.
I do find it fascinating that camels and llamas, whose last common ancestor was roughly as long ago as that of chimpanzees and us, can produce viable offspring.
I've don't think I've ever seen a cultivated evergreen huckleberry plant with berries on it though.
Bought it a while ago because of an Indian curry recipe that called for 1/8 of tsp per bucket, but never got around to actually adding it, because of its eye-popping burnt rubber aroma.
A word of warning: It is very potent. I store mine in a pot wrapped in two sealed plastic bags which is in turn put in a sealed jar. My spices cupboard still reeks of it the moment I open it.
It is also used as a replacement for garlic in dishes, for people who refuse garlic for religious reasons.
I've never heard of this. What religions ban garlic? (and pity for them, I love it!)
When taking out the entire plant, you also take out any organisms like bugs and such from their ecosystem, killing them in the process. Jains try and limit the amount of violence they cause (Ahimsa), so in turn they try and avoid eating rooted vegetables.
On top of this, by removing the whole plant you prevent them from sprouting again, which is effectively "killing" in Jainism.
All of this being said though, modern agriculture techniques kind of make this reasoning insignificant. Mass farming practices mean that all plants are effectively killed along with any organisms in that area when harvesting.
And to top it all off, many Jains do not follow this practice, at least in the US. Many of my family eat all of these things, maybe trying to avoid them during Paryushan (holy week).
Also, grow mixtures of plants together that naturally crowd out weeds, inhibit the spread of pests, and replenish certain nutrients like nitrogen. IMHO this is grossly under-studied but could become more relevant with smarter robotics.
Plants are hypercompetitive and constantly fighting for space and resources. The only reason modern agriculture works is we are so effective at killing weeds with machines and herbicide. Otherwise crop fields would quickly be taken over by whatever grows the fastest.
They may also adapt their diet to whatever is the most edible among the weeds. This year a grape vine mysteriously sprouted in my garden and started taking over before I realized what it was and murdered it to save the zucchinis. A Jain would probably be happy enough with the grapes. I had even considered adopting it.
Onions and garlic are thought to promote carnal thoughts and violate the "sattvik" food lifestyle.
Very interestingly, Kashmiri Hindus eat meat, but are forbidden onions or garlic.
At the time, I asked them about this and the reply was that onions and garlic are considered to be stimulants and spiritually bad for you. The following article further elaborates on this explanation (best consumed with a pinch of salt): http://www.krishna.com/domains/d6.krishna.com/why-no-garlic-...
Is used in Indian cooking - a pinch in hot oil transforms into a subtle flavor and aroma that people claim to be a replacement for onions and garlic. Used extensively in Jain cooking since the Jain religion prohibits use of onion and garlic in food. See http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/ for delicious vegetarian Jain recipes. Almost all her traditional recipes use asafoetida (aka "hing" in indian recipes). Look for her recipes around 2012/13 since those are the home cooked recipes before she went viral in the indian community.
This recipe with potatoes is simple
http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/aloo-jeera-potatoes-with-cumi... . Use lemon juice as a replacement for mango powder.
I think "if a dish would benefit from onions or garlic, then a pinch of fetid ass would go as well"