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27 February 2002

It is discourteous to order at a restaurant any food which through its odor may disturb others at table. Such foods are strong cheese, onions, chives, garlic.

Manners for Millions, by Sophie C. Hadida (1950)

I'm not sure why this quote leaped out at me. I think it was the word "garlic."

I love garlic. There is nothing that smells better than garlic and onions sizzling together in a frying pan.

Or the taste of garlic blended into butter, spread on half a loaf of French bread and popped in the oven to brown. (Can you tell I'm dieting?)

The latest thing around these parts is garlic restaurants, where everything on the menu has garlic in it. Start with an appetizer--a roasted head of garlic, with the soft cloves spread on warm french bread. Follow that with 30-clove-of-garlic chicken, a side dish of garlic mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach flavored with garlic. Then, if you're really adventurous, top the whole thing off with a nice dish of garlic ice cream. Really!

We went to such a place once--it was called "The Stinking Rose," which is apparently a euphemism for garlic. And yes, we did try garlic ice cream. It's not as gross as it sounds. And, to tell you the truth, after garlic appetizers, garlic main dish, garlic side dishes and garlic bread, if there is garlic in ice cream, believe me, you don't even notice it. I suspect it's more for shock value than anything else.

(Of course I've never tried garlic ice cream without the prelude of a full garlic dinner, so maybe with unblemished taste buds you can taste the garlic in the ice cream.)

Garlic is also good for you. It can help reduce cholesterol, clear plaque from clogged arteries, thin the blood, block cancer, and fight infection. It helps promote the body's health and strength. It helps prevent heart disease, strokes, and hypertension.

Garlic was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, chewed by Greek Olympian atheletes and thought to be essential for keeping vampires at bay. At the turn of the century, garlic was the drug of choice for tuberculosis. Albert Schweitzer used garlic to treat cholera and typhus. And during World War II, British physicians treated battle wounds with garlic. In Russia, it's called Russian penicillin.

Kinda makes you wonder why doctors don't say "take two cloves of garlic and call me in the morning," doesn't it.

I once worked with a woman who swore by garlic. She took massive quantities of it and always touted its healthful effects. And as far as I know, she never did get sick.

But one thing I learned in working with her is that while I really don't mind "garlic breath" on someone, garlic excreted out the pores is an entirely different odor. And if you take massive quantities of garlic, your body does excrete it out your pores.

The odor in that office could be overwhelming to the point of becoming nauseating. I had to make sure I worked by a window so I could open it and let the fresh air blow away some of the odor of the excreted garlic.

Still, if you don't have to smell the garlic oil coming out the pores, garlic is an amazing thing. We live near Gilroy, which is the self-proclaimed garlic capitol of the world. Driving from here to LA, if you drive through Gilroy on a warm summer afternoon, you can smell the garlic wafting across the freeway from the fields.

You can stop at one of the garlic stores along the road and buy everything from pickled garlic to garlic trinkets to garlic wine. (Pass on the garlic wine, if you want my advice. I haven't actually tested it, but Walt does not recommend it.)

It's amazing how versatile the lowly garlic is...for medicinal purposes, for decorative purposes, for gourmet eating, or for brewing. Obviously, for some, a thing of garlic is a joy forever.


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