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.
Folklore holds that garlic repelled vampires, protected against the Evil Eye, and warded off jealous nymphs said to terrorize pregnant women and engaged maidens. And let us not forget to mention the alleged powers of garlic which have been extolled through the ages.
Surprisingly, garlic was frowned upon by foodie snobs in the United States until the first quarter of the twentieth century, being found almost exclusively in ethnic dishes in working-class neighborhoods. But, by 1940, America had embraced garlic, finally recognizing its value as not only a minor seasoning, but as a major ingredient in recipes.
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.