I am generally not moved by the range of dedicated ‘speciality’ days that occur in one’s diary or the press generally. Mothers’ Day is left to other people, Fathers’ Day appears to pass without incident or remembrance in my home and general religious festivals around the world are of passing interest only. In a sub-section encompassing the dietary world one comes across British Apple Day, National Brassica Day or even World Potato Day. But one little pointer that came up on screen announced the forthcoming National Garlic Day on the 19th April. Somehow this sparked a flicker of my cynical radar screen. What on earth were we citizens of the global village meant to celebrate? A minute’s silence in an Indian restaurant perhaps, or a traditional parade of garlic merchants marching to Westminster to demand more attention or an increased in the bulb cost. I had no idea.

However, the stirrings of my vast knowledge on the subject, or rather the lack of it, prompted some thought and like an unwanted tune it kept occurring throughout my working day.

Where did garlic originate? Who made it famous? How many people eat it and why? Questions began to infuse my very being similar in fact to the very experience of eating the stuff.

I had long chit-chatted at dinner parties on how it was a staple in our house and that there were few meals that I had cooked over a number of years that did not contain it. This was not to display my worldly culinary prowess but more a declaration of my own unwavering courage in the face of more timid diners. Using or tolerating garlic, when I first ventured into the serious world of food many years ago, was a badge of bravery, a mark of urbane understanding in an otherwise bland landscape.

One incident, embedded into my psyche, was a family holiday to Tuscany twenty odd years ago. Prior to the event we had taken on board a pair of rather rare breed dogs. As with the expenditure of a stud horse, my visit to the vet at their appropriate puppy age was essential in order to safeguard my investment. The vet in question was an old friend and he happened to be dining with us one night and undertook a quick examination and a couple of gratis injections during canapés. I naturally broached the subject of worming as the first course arrived. “Don’t bother about expensive drugs” he casually mentioned, “just pop a clove of garlic in their mouths, grip the muzzle tightly until swallowed and the job’s done”. We undertook the procedure before our main course. He was right. 24 hours later our dogs were clear.

After a lakeside concert in Tuscany that year, to the strains of Vivaldi and at the height of the mosquito season, my 8 year old daughter was found to have accidentally consumed a passing pregnant insect and the concerns one may harbour over young puppies had struck my daughter Charlotte. In the wild hillsides of northern Italy, the idea of trying to explain to an expensive Italian doctor that my offspring was suffering from some form of worm was too daunting for words. That far off dinner with my vetinary chum popped up like a light bulb. It was quick, inexpensive and convenient, what harm could it do? Italian children ate garlic all the time after all. Young Charlotte was not as keen on my alternative therapy and after some cajoling alongside honey coated garlic cloves and with no recourse to muzzle gripping, the garlic was swallowed. The procedure worked a treat, although living in the same room was quite taxing for a few days as every exhalation emptied her lungs of her newly discovered whiff.

Which brings me neatly to this multi-purposed member of the onion family. Although the bulbs of the garlic have little perceptible odour, all this changes when broken down. Upon crushing or masticating a notoriously powerful smell is created, which to many is less than fragrant.

With garlic being one of man’s oldest traceable foods, many mummified cloves were discovered in the tombs of the Egyptians, it has featured in the cooking history of both Greek and Roman empires. The Roman poet, Horace, felt that upon eating it could drive your lover to refuse a kiss, hence his quote that it was “more harmful than hemlock” whereas its ability to combat anti-clotting in the blood, its natural ability to combat fungicidal infection and its rich content of vitamins B and C, was principally consigned to the working populace, who presumably smelt pretty bad in the first place, so it was of no matter.

So the social delineation of garlic has changed out of all recognition and if nothing else, we could now celebrate on of the world’s oldest egalitarian foods used as both medicines and exciting flavouring.

We are now more fully aware of its considerable medical properties, which is all well and good as my daughter has held fast to her present distain following my impromptu Italian remedy.