October 17, 2007

Garlic: Stinky but Stupendous

Garlic is already known as a potent cancer-fighter, but apparently it's also great for lowering blood pressure and relaxing the arteries. At least that's according to this garlic study just out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The scientists say it all has something to do with hydrogen sulfide interacting with red blood cells and relaxing your arteries--or well, at least that seems to be the case if you're a rat. But, as the article points out, hydrogen sulfide is "is a toxic, flammable gas responsible for the smell of rotten eggs."

Thus the problem. (Not the toxic flammable part--Crabby isn't worried about consuming so much garlic she bursts into toxic flames). She means the smell.

Does anyone else deal with the following household dilemma? Suggestions would be most welcome.

The Crab loves the taste of garlic, and is a Big Fan of eating tasty healthy foods no matter how offensively odoriferous they may be. Garlic is just one example; this same issue comes up with regard to broccolini, cabbage, and seafood. To the Crab, these food odors are (a) not that bad and (b) worth it for the pleasure of enjoying the smelly food items and for all the bonus health benefits that come with them.

However, the Lobster is not as big a fan of garlic, or of seafood or cruciferous vegetables. She can handle a little bit of garlic in spaghetti, but nowhere near as much as the Crab would enjoy. She can do without smelly fishy things and could happily abstain from eating cooked cabbage or broccoli or its cousins for the rest of her life.

Compromise and occasional Separate Dinner Menus are needed for the Crab to get the garlic/seafood/broccolini she craves. But even then there remains a problem: the house stinks to high heaven when she cooks these foods.

(And as an aside--why do the cooking odors seek out the master bedroom, which is far far away from the kitchen, to linger for another day or two? What's with that? Even Crabby is not entirely happy to smell two-day old garlic in the bedroom).

So the Crab cooks these foods far less frequently than she would enjoy them, but still much more frequently than the Lobster cares to breathe seafood/broccolini/garlic fumes.

Alas, opened windows (no matter what the temperature); air fresheners; fans; all these help a little but none has been able to eliminate the problem.

Does anyone else grapple with this? Is there a Secret Miracle Cure for nasty/healthy cooking odors? Does everyone in your household have the same tolerance for food odors?


  1. Crabby, I can definitely relate to the odor problem. Seems as though every time I peel an onion, the peelings in the garbage makes the house smell terrible. (I usually end up taking them to the garbage outside). One trick for ridding the house of bad smells is to put a small open dish of white vinegar somewhere out of the way (where it won't get knocked over). Apparently, coffee grounds also work - I haven't tried that one, but the vinegar does help get rid of the smell of cigarette smoke.

  2. Supposedly parsley negates garlic breath and vinegar is allegedly good for absorbing odours.
    Putting out a bowl of vinegar, it is claimed, will take care of cigarette smoke, for one thing, and possibly other odours as well.
    What I can tell you for a fact is swish vinegar around in the an empty salsa jar to neutralize the fragrance. This works. Lemon juice does the same thing.

    NB The Bag Lady and I posted at or near the same time. This was not collusion.

  3. Hi Crabby, welcome home...

    Along with the vinegar idea, I have friends who light scented candles. They make me sneeze...

    If you cook garlic without first cutting or mincing it, and mash it once cooked, then the smell in the air is much lower but the flavor is still good (if somewhat more mellow).

    How it ends up in the bedroom sounds like a feng shui problem to me! :D


  4. Chewing whole cloves also helps the garlic breath problem, but creates an altogether different problem of it's own (all those brown bits in your teeth make's it look as though you're chewing tobacco!)
    Obviously the vinegar trick is a family secret....

  5. Hi Crabby,

    I have to go with the scented candles. I light them before I cook and leave them on afterward. I also keep some in the master bedroom so I can light them for an hour before bedtime, in case some cooking odor has traveled unnoticed. I never leave the candles lit during sleeping time and I always leave a window open as candles and cut flowers both take up oxygen.

    Do Crabs need as much oxygen as humans?


    If scented candles make you sneeze, that's probably allergies at work. Try a different scent, or more likely a different brand of candle.


  6. Great suggestions so far--love the Vinegar Conspiracy!

    And scented candles sound like a great idea too, provided I don't forget to blow them out. Any particular scents good for garlic/onion camouflage?

    Alas coffee grounds are already found in abundance in our kitchen and don't seem to eliminate the problem--perhaps I just need to drink more coffeee!

  7. Mints. Mints upon mints upon mints.

    That was the solution for me yesterday after I enjoyed too much chicken and garlic pizza during our lunch meeting, anyway.

    I'll third the scented candles! We had an often apocalyptically dirty apartment in college, but my roommate's girlfriend worked at a Bath and Body Works and often brought by free oil lamps and scented candles. No matter how many dishes were in the sink the whole apartment smelled of vanilla or lilac.

    (Also: why do so many garlic enthusiasts insist on eating it raw? I know, I know, garlic has lots of health benefits, but do you lose them roasting or sauteeing, or what?)

  8. Garlic is a mighty thing. I've done studies...chock full of antioxidents they are - allicin. Good for you. I take nonsmelling garlic pills myself. For garlic breath, I've been told that taking charcoal pills (health food store)will help absorb the smelly breathy/farty type stuff - parsley works too. I've tried the parsley. Can't vouch for the charcoal.
    I find slicing garlic instead of mincing or crushing it cuts down on the smell. After a smelly cooking time I put a bit of vinegar on a rag and wipe down the counter with it - or put vinegar and baking soda (2T of each) on a cloth, smush it into a paste and do the same. Sucks up a great many things...my Mom in law hates vinegar, so she has a big scented candle in a jar(cookie smelling..yummy) she just leaves on the stove in the middle where the spoonrest thing would go and whenever the oven heats up it scents the room. Or she just lights it when she cooks if she isn't using the oven. Works like a charm.

  9. "Apocalyptically dirty apartment", I may have to steal that Jim!

    And charcoal for the smelly breathy/farty problem--I wasn't going to mention that particular aspect but thanks for the advice geosomin!

  10. I seem to be atypical, but I do think that garlic smells great! Put some olive oil in your hot pan, add chopped onion and garlic, and the mouth just starts to water! (Raw onion does give you a bad breath (as do raw cauliflower), but it certainly is worth it when chopped on finely grated carrot with some salt and cold pressed colza oil.)

    Raw garlic tastes good when pressed on a roasted really, really dark bread (like the German type) with a mug of broth, especially when you're eight years old and have a cold. Or raw garlic mixed with parsley and butter on a sandwich - great to a soup. Or parsley and garlic with snails, the Burgundy style. Yum! (Do you find me gross now? Hehe.)

    If you don't like garlic, why eat it? It is a spice to make your food tastier. If you don't find it tastier, don't add it! Take a garlic pill, if you're afraid of loosing some good stuff!

    Fortunately my husband agree with me. Well, he doesn't really kiss me more after the above mentioned garlic bread, but he always come out in the kitchen saying "Mmm, it smells delicious!" when there's only oil, onion and garlic in the pan. (And that's the start of almost all my dishes...)

    This is going to be a bit long, but I just had an idea. I was to a scout camp where one person didn't like onions and one didn't like garlic. The one didn't liking onion was just like me, when I was little: when the onion was so finely cut that he couldn't see or feel it, everything was ok, and he liked the taste. The other person really didn't like the taste of garlic, though. So we chopped the garlic and fried it in a pan. Then those who wanted it, could have as much as they liked. (This tip might work out better in the archipelago, with lots of fresh air dissipating the "odours" (perfumes!)

    (And perfumed candles stink! As do air fresheners (you know those sprays some people want to use in the loo). I must be allergic to everyone of them!)

    And then blablabla, bla, blabla...

  11. Pelikan, I'm with you, I love the smell (unless it's two days old and in my bedroom).

    I love the archipelago solution; wish I could afford it!

  12. Well, shoot, Crabby. That IS a predicament. I was married for a long time to someone who didn't like garlic and onion breath and was terrified of having it, so raw onion and garlic weren't used very much in our house if at all.

    One of the things I really enjoy about my "remarriage" is that my husband LOVES garlic and raw onion, so we both eat tons and don't care what other people think.

    Why does your cabbage and broccoli smell bad? I don't get that. You're not overcooking it are you?

    I agree about the cooking garlic/onion smell. Just says "home" to me.

  13. Crabby: Long-unwashed dishes slowly turning sentient in the sink, Little Debbie Snack Cakes (third in line for post-nuke survival after cockroaches and twinkies) wrappers everywhere, a television left on for no conceivable reason, chaotic swirls of clothes left in the corners, and a lone vacuum cleaner inexplicably left in the middle of the room, a monument to good intentions long gone.

    Yeah. "Apocalyptically." :)

  14. hi crabby-
    i'm totally with the lobster on the food smells...(actually i'm glad to hear that someone else out there is the same way because i take A LOT of flak for being so snooty about stinky food smells in the house!) i'm insanely sensitive to having my house smell like food. so much so that it has caused me to cease cooking for long periods of time. that, however, was not a great solution for my waistline or bank account...
    i tend to favor the odorless oust spray and open windows to get rid of the stink. i close all of the doors to the other rooms in the house because i also hate hate hate the smell of food in the bedroom. i've decided that if/when i build my dream house, i will have an outbuilding/ separate kitchen!! that's the only way i can see getting around it...

  15. Melissa--cooked cabbage & broccoli smell something like cabbage & broccoli--which by Lobster definition is "bad."

    Jim--I won't say your writing talent is wasted on a foodie blog, because it's an excellent blog, but man--you got a great novel in ya'. I can just smell that apartment.

  16. Meg,

    "Odorless oust spray?"

    What's that? Do tell!

  17. Crabby; "Oust" is a brand-name for a spray deodorizer. Not supposed to leave any flowery smells, but actually rids the air of odours. There is/was another product called Nilodor - same idea. I dunno, vinegar is cheaper.

  18. Oo, I love the smell of cooking in my house, especially garlic and apples (not together). Meg and I can never live together because of the smell issue :) I'd be one stinky housemate.

  19. Crabby, as my sister (bag lady) and cousin Leah have already stated white vinegar works wonders.
    If you do not like scented candles (I'm allergic) or sprays, lighting a plain unscented candle will do the trick too.
    There is a product called Air Sponge, which is a natural organic odor absorber. It comes in a plastic tub (like sour cream) and you put it somewhere out of the way. I have 2 or 3 around my apartment and when I had a car, kept one in it. You can get the spray now as well, but, I am not sure it works as well.
    It is approved by the Asthma Association of Canada, but is made in the USA, so you should be able to find it.

  20. A really, really powerful vent fan over the stove. I have a downdraft, not so good.

    I'm thinking: hibachi for the back porch, on a steel prep counter.

    BTW, soaking beans with a little baking soda added supposedly helps with their "musicality."

  21. I LOVE garlic, onion, brocolli and brussel sprouts (the stinkiest of all!)

    I LOVE the small Glade scented candles. They are about 2-3 bucks at any store and come in many scents. I prefer the cinammon or fruit ones because I don't LOVE the smell of flowers with my food!

    Well, I am obviuously feeling very LOVE-Y today.

    I LOVE the fact that you are back, dear Crabby!


  22. I'm lucky in that my wife enjoys the same strong flavors I do, and neither of us mind the smell. She always knows I've been cooking something good when she can smell it outside the door of our apartment building. Now heat I have to add afterwards, a little sriracha.

    By the way, I tried to leave a rockin' comment yesterday, and it didn't take, AND I made the noob mistake of typing it into the browser field, thus losing it forever. This, though much shorter, was typed in my word processor. :P

  23. Bossy's kids and husband don't even know it's dinner time unless the smell of garlic is punching them on the jaw.

  24. Jim, according to garlic enthusiast Dr. Weil, the more you cook the garlic, the more you destroy the healthy stuff that does so much good for you.
    On the other hand, raw garlic does not agree with me at all. It argues, sneers, and in general behaves atrociously. There's a limit to how much I will put up with in the pursuit of health ;)
    Even cooked, it is helping me to get over a nasty virus.
    And I agree, welcome back Crabby!

  25. I'm sure with you on garlic and the cruciferous vegggies! YUM. My darling DH loves his Brussels and his broccoli, and so do I. Mom hates that, but loves the garlic; DH not so hot on the garlic but knows better than to complain, he just picks out what he thinks is excessive, but the point is that everyone eats it so no one smells offensive to each other, at least, and it's a small little townhouse that we all must share.

    My food smells don't go into our room, but my neighbor who is a fab cook drives me insane with how good what she cooks smells! It just pours out of the bath and vanity area! It was all I could do to not knock on her door and beg an invitation to dinner for two years, but now that we are all friends she feeds us some of that good stuff and we swap her back on home made taco night and give her lattes and homeroasted coffee.

    Good solutions, I didn't know the vinegar would pull out the odors, I use it on lime deposits. The strong vent fan over a stove helps a lot, I'm still trying to train my Mom to use it, as it also pulls out combustion fumes if you cook "with gas", which add to indoor home pollution. The candles just put another layer of petrochemicals in the air, unless you use 100% beeswax which smell like honey, or soy candles with natural essential oils. I like my candles but use them with a window open and not for long or very often. I have used coffee too on occasion, but it has to be a good fresh whole bean that you grind and then leave out sprinkled on a paper towel or such. But I just hate to waste it. Used grounds won't do much, except of course the fragrance from brewing. Fresh grounds can be much richer odor dispersal wise depending on the coffee. When I home roast I leave the bags open on the kitchen counter to de-gas, and they fill the entire house with fresh brewed coffee smell, so you could always get an old popcorn popper, order some green beans, and roast a few days worth in about 20 minutes on the days you want to cook odiferous foods. You'd have your garlic masked, and awesome coffee too! ;D

    The Air Sponge sure sounds interesting.

  26. A bit late to comment, perhaps...but no one else mentioned BreathAssure--little parsley-oil capsules with a lightly minty coating--the minty part tastes good before you swallow the capsules WHOLE (tho I suppose you could chew them,never tried). My husband has a Very Sensitive Nose when it comes to garlic, and he is unaware that I've had garlic if I've had 3 or 4 BreathAssure. I try to have it pretty quickly after the offending food, and it seems to be effective within 30 minutes.It's available at Whole Foods,and possibly health food stores. It's made by the people who made Orablast.

    For the roaring, sour stomach effect of raw garlic and other indigestible things, another remedy is papaya tablets--chock full of papain, a busy little enzyme that is quick to neutralize the foods that give me indigestion. I'll chew three or four of those at the first hint of upset. It's another way to help the system without chemically shutting down anything you need to keep digestion going--I'm physiologically opposed to all those proton-pump inhibitors like Pepcid.

  27. It's never too late to comment, Nancy!

    And more great suggestions from everyone; thanks.

    As I'm craving garlic big time these days I'm looking forward to trying some of these tricks!

  28. Oh and Holly, it's great to be back with such LOVE-ly commenters who come to visit!

  29. I love the smell of garlic and onion, especially when their being sauted in some olive oil...

    Never had an issue with cabbage, either - it's a staple in my diet!

    I've heard that roasted garlic bodes better for the breath than other types. But this is based on zero scientific evidence whatsoever.

  30. Mmmmm.... garlic. The Skinny Guy household LOVES garlic! One of our favs is string beans sauteed in garlic and olive oil. But no meal is complete unless garlic is involved in some way.

  31. Now I know! Old garlic does smell (and taste) awful. Don't buy to much, but by only what you need for a week. It may look good, but still be too old, and that is really discouraging if you're not a garlic fan, who knows how good fresh garlic tastes.

    And of course - do the dishes at once.

    (Sorry for the delay, but it was when cutting my old garlic, I realised the problem...)


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