This article originally appeared on VICE US.
If Garlic Twitter wasn't already A Thing, it is now, and we owe it to the New York Times, who shook parts of the food internet with a truly spicy tweet: "The idea of adding a whole head of garlic to a dip might scare you, but roasted garlic is sweet and mellow," it said. The spiciness, of course, is the suggestion that people aren't already using a whole head of garlic in absolutely everything, and what the Times really roasted was itself.
Cue a slew of tweets calling the Times out for being a little out of touch. Close to 85,000 people have since called bullshit on that caption by liking a response tweet that reads, "Who the fuck is afraid of adding a whole head of garlic to anything?" "Wait.. I’m so confused... do people NOT add at least three whole cloves of garlic to every home cooked meal?" read another response, to which someone replied, "My most common recipe change is needs more garlic." "I am afraid of dips that don't have at least a head of roasted garlic. Blandness is a fate worse than breath," said yet another.
The Times has been known to fan food world flame wars. Its pea guacamole of 2015 was so haunting that food writer Melissa Clark was still defending the recipe two years later. Its clumsy introduction to bubble tea ("The Blobs in Your Tea? They’re Supposed to Be There?") in 2017 led to Twitter takedowns, an edit, and a public apology. When it trashed the Aperol spritz just this month, it lit fires under the butts of Brooklyn folks to storm their nearest bars in search of one.
Still, those tend to be more niche affronts: The Aperol spritz isn't really the drink of the people, and despite it being quite mainstream, a handful of folks who haven't yet had bubble tea probably exist somewhere. People who considered Antoni's Greek yogurt guac on Queer Eye unobjectionable might even find pleasure in the addition of peas. Garlic, however, is the great uniter—and snubbing the cult-like obsession with garlic can seem a little out of touch.
Even for those who aren't big on the nitty-gritty of food, plenty of people form their culinary identities on the fact that they just love garlic so much, and a very particular kind of pissing contest emerges over who can love garlic more. As the adage goes, "One clove of is not enough for any recipe unless it's a recipe for 'how to cook one clove of garlic'—even in this case, use two." The garlic internet doesn't just laugh in the face of vampires, but also bad breath. We might be stinky, but at least we are seasoned.
Meme websites have collections of garlic memes (a different beast entirely than garlic bread memes): "One does not simply use a single clove of garlic" reads a picture of Sean Bean as Boromir. A Boston maker sells clothes and zines that say, "Smash garlic and the patriarchy." At least 898 people—myself included—wear garlic as an actual tattoo, instead of a piece of clothing. Some people are such garlic fanatics that they'll even put it up their vaginas, to the horror of some modern OB/GYNs. When dealing with an odd pain, a titular character on Netflix's Tuca & Bertie follows a similar faith in garlic.
Perhaps this garlic obsession comes from the fact that a vocal love of garlic is the most basic food flex. The spice-laden shelves at Kalustyan's, or even Whole Foods, might be overwhelming; salt, while for most people a given, can admittedly be problematic for some health issues, and spice doesn't jive with everyone's tolerance—a little garlic, however, suggests that you're not seasoning-averse. A meme titled "the 'wow what are you cooking it smells so good' starter pack" is just a picture of onions, oil, and garlic.
It spans cultures. "You love garlic, of course: You're Filipino," says my Filipino mother, whose default is a full head in every recipe; my Vermont in-laws, who otherwise go light on spices, feel similarly. Italian American food would be lost without garlic, Puerto Rico has its mojo sauce, Sri Lanka has curries focused entirely on garlic, and so on. Basically, starting a beef with garlic is kind of like beefing with the world.
Regardless, I'd try the roasted garlic dip—I might even make it with more garlic. That whole head of garlic? It's supposed to be there.