Garlic: Tracing its changing popularity in British cuisine 

Journal Article
Author(s): Charles Spence
Year: 2024

Garlic, which was originally used medicinally, has become increasingly ubiquitous as a culinary ingredient in recent years. However, its popularity in British cooking has risen and fallen repeatedly over the centuries. While some commentators, perhaps most notably Mrs. Beeton, once described it as smelling ‘offensive’, other commentators nowadays claim that it imparts a gorgeous flavour to both savoury and sweet foods. Various explanations for garlic’s mixed culinary fortunes are discussed, including the antimicrobial hypothesis, the perception of garlic as a ‘foreign’ ingredient (at least by those living in Britain), the malodour (garlic breath) long associated with those who have recently consumed this pungent allium, and the contemporary perception of it as a functional food. Given that it is difficult to assess whether the availability of different cultivars may have resulted in those living in Britain simply being exposed to less pungent varietals nowadays than previously, it remains uncertain just how much people’s tastes (i.e., preferences) have changed as the years have gone by versus whether today’s commercial alliums are simply less pungent than once they were.