When I feed my husband lots of garlic he's a happy man, and it turns out he's not alone. In a study conducted by the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, researchers discovered that spicing up the evening meal with garlic led to happier family relations. To learn more, I spoke with study author Alan R. Hirsch, MD, FACP, director of the foundation and author of Life's a Smelling Success (Authors of Unity). He told me that since pleasant fragrances can induce a positive mood, it's logical that the smell and taste of garlic bread at dinner can kindle warm feelings among family members, enhancing interactions and solidifying relationships.
ABOUT THE STUDY
In response to a radio solicitation, 50 families were given two identical spaghetti dinners, one with and one without garlic bread. Family size ranged from two to 12 people, with an average of 3.6. Researchers recorded the number of family interactions, both positive and negative, at three one-minute intervals during both dinners. According to Dr. Hirsch, inhaling the aroma of garlic bread and eating it decreased the number of negative interactions by 22.7% (0.174 per family member per minute) and increased the number of pleasant interactions by 7.4% (0.25 per family member per minute). This effect was most pronounced in older family members who liked garlic bread and had nostalgic feelings about its aroma. There was no special impact on young people. As to whether it was specifically the aroma of the garlic or the bread or the combination of the two that did the trick, Dr. Hirsch says that it is impossible to tell.
THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
Dr. Hirsch and his colleagues concluded that serving garlic bread enhanced the quality of family interactions. Family members who liked garlic bread became more positive, less critical and made fewer negative comments. He adds that other baked goods with pleasant aromas and tastes, such as biscuits, rolls, cakes or cookies, probably have similar effects, and believes that this has potential application for promoting and maintaining shared family experiences.
So next time you enter the kitchen and don your chef's hat, pop a loaf of garlic bread in the oven. Keep in mind that you're not only cooking dinner for your family, you're promoting family harmony and well being, and creating warm memories for years to come.