Garlic eaters

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Buckingham Palace has let it be known to the chefs at Rome's Quirinale Palace, where the Queen and Prince Philip are staying during their visit to the Holy City, that they should hold back on the garlic in preparing the Royal dishes. This quaint reminder of the pre-Elizabeth David diets of post-war Britain - when foreigners were still pilloried as garlic eaters - has almost an antique charm, bringing back those pre-supermarket winters when the only green vegetables on sale were Brussels sprouts.

Buckingham Palace has let it be known to the chefs at Rome's Quirinale Palace, where the Queen and Prince Philip are staying during their visit to the Holy City, that they should hold back on the garlic in preparing the Royal dishes. This quaint reminder of the pre-Elizabeth David diets of post-war Britain - when foreigners were still pilloried as garlic eaters - has almost an antique charm, bringing back those pre-supermarket winters when the only green vegetables on sale were Brussels sprouts.

That the British palate - with the apparent exception of the Royal Family's - has now expanded to embrace the whole world of edible foodstuffs is a source of many innocent pleasures. And garlic, that simple but ancient bulbous annual, is a stimulating example. For consider, not only has it been in culinary use since at least 2600BC (in ancient Egyptian recipes), but it has medicinal uses as well. It has been used to treat wounds, infections, tumours and intestinal parasites. Modern science has shown garlic to have many preventative properties: it reduces cholesterol, stimulates the immune system, clears mucus from the lungs, and prevents dysentery. And, most delightfully, that pungent odour awakens the desire for a good glass of wine on the side.

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