Garlic on Your Mind (Breath!)

Ah, the joys of shrimp scampi, garlic toast and, for the very adventuresome, garlic soup. All is not so merry the next day when the ghost of devoured garlic comes back to haunt the gluttonous gourmet. Garlic is not just a lingering odor in the mouth that can be washed out with a dose of mouthwash. Even diligent brushing and flossing doesn’t get rid of it. So what is the cause and cure of the garlic curse?

According to Dr. Eric Block, of the State University of New York at Albany, who has spent 25 years studying the chemical components of garlic and their health benefits it is mostly the fault of our sensitive noses. Garlic contains a number of sulfur compounds including allicin, ajoene, and diallyl disulfide.( Note that onions are a member of the Allium genus and also contain some of these compounds.) When these complex sulfur compounds are digested they are broken down into simpler sulfur compounds which enter the bloodstream. With each breath we exhale, we waft these sulfur compounds into the air. They are also in our sweat so we further perfume the air around us as we perspire. The human nose can pick up one part per billion of these odiferous compounds in the air, so a little garlic goes a long way.

Dr. Block also feels that in the case of garlic it is no pain, no gain. His research leads him to believe that it is the sulfur compounds and their breakdown products that provided the health benefits from garlic. Some of them are not very stable in their natural states and all of them are less than fragrant in that state. He sees a lack of logic in expecting to derive health benefits from a sanitized, deodorized capsule that leaves you smelling like a rose but has altered the unstable compounds that are the active components. To derive benefits from garlic he theorizes that you have to smell like garlic. Fortunately, this is not a universally agreed upon concept or those who use it on a regular basis to lower blood pressure, control cholesterol or to prevent blood clots would be most unpopular.

There are a number of folklore remedies for control of garlic breath. One is parsley. Many recipes that contain garlic also contain parsley and this may be no coincidence. Putting the fresh parsley in at the end of the recipe or chewing a spring is the recommended usage.Chewing cardamom seeds is the remedy for garlic odor in cuisines that don’t use parsley. It too supposedly has more than a masking effect. Mixing lemon juice with water and rinsing the mouth thoroughly is said to be helpful.  Nothing except the passage of 72 hours will totally rid the body of the odor of garlic.

With that in mind here is a recipe for shrimp scampi pizza. Be sure to share it with all of those with whom you are going to share breathing space.

Shrimp Pizza

13 ounces pizza dough
8 ounces shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (1-ounce) cubes butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 550 degrees F.


Stretch pizza dough to make a 16-inch pizza. Top crust with mozzarella, and bake on a pizza pan or pizza stone for 5 minutes. Crust will only be partially cooked.


In a medium skillet over high heat, heat olive oil until very hot, remove from heat, add shrimp and garlic, and toss. Add wine, chicken stock and lemon juice, bring to a simmer. Add butter, and heat until melted, then remove from heat. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Shrimp will finish cooking on pizza.


Spread mixture over crust and finish baking until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley; let cool a few minutes before cutting.