“Garlic used as it should be used is the soul, the divine essence, of cookery. The cook who can employ it successfully will be found to possess the delicacy of perception, the accuracy of judgment, and the dexterity of hand which go to the formation of a great artist”. Mrs. W. G. Waters
The word garlic comes from Old English garleac, meaning “spear leek.” Dating back over 6,000 years, it is native to Central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Egyptians worshiped garlic and placed clay models of garlic bulbs in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Garlic was so highly-prized, it was even used as currency.
Those portions of the United States where Spanish influence was greatest—the south and southwest—showed greatest respect for the plant as a condiment. In 19th-century New England it was esteemed for medical rather than culinary reasons. The therapeutic uses now seem laughable: “wrapping a clove of garlic and putting it into the ear” to counteract deafness; dried and compacted into pills for consumption by persons affected by “vapours” or women’s “nervous disorders”; cooked into a syrup for “dropsical complaints, asthmas, and agues.
Quaint diner slang of the 1920’s referred to garlic as Bronx vanilla, halitosis, and Italian perfume. Today, Americans alone consume more than 250 million pounds of garlic annually.