What’s with European epicures suddenly renouncing their national culinary staples? First a star French baker blasts the baguette, and now a handful of Italian chefs and politicians are coming out against garlic. As the AP reports,

A quintessential element of traditional Italian and Mediterranean cooking, garlic is at the center of a gastronomic dispute in this nation [Italy] that prides itself on its food. To critics it is just a stinky product that overwhelms more delicate flavors. Admirers say garlic enhances taste, gives a dish an extra punch—and is also good for the health.

On the antigarlic side are Sicilian-bred chef Filippo La Mantia, who helms a reportedly popular restaurant in downtown Rome, and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, “whose aversion to garlic and obsession with minty breath are legendary,” the AP explains. “He considers garlic very dangerous for the environment, his personal environment,” adds Carlo Rossella, a top newsman at one of the TV stations Berlusconi owns. “Berlusconi doesn’t like bad smells. Garlic is considered by Berlusconi a bad smell.”

Rossella, meanwhile, says he is allergic to garlic, and he’s on a quest to persuade “distinguished” chefs to create entirely garlic-free menus:

‘Garlic for me is a sort of persecution,’ he laments. ‘They put garlic in almost any dish: With meat, with fish, everywhere. It’s not politically correct to impose garlic on everybody.’

I can kind of sympathize with Rossella on the food-allergy front: My boyfriend’s father is allergic to onions, and he basically has to avoid French restaurants, as well as many other types of cuisine; and then of course there’s my gluten-avoidance thing. But as for Berlusconi and other fresh-breath fanatics like him, those crazies will never pry the garlic from my stinky fingers!

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