The problem with onions, as we are all aware, is that the damn things smell. Onion breath has been around since the very first chap spotted one and took a bite out of it. Once you’ve eaten an onion, it is obvious that you have which is why Don Quixote told Sancho Panza to “Eat not garlic nor onions, lest they find out thy boorish origin by the smell.” In the Wild West of America the cowboys called onions “skunk eggs.”
There is an interesting tale of how the leek came to be the national emblem of Wales. The morning before the Battle of Heathfield in 633, King Cadwallader, the leader of the Welsh instructed his soldiers to wear leeks in their caps. The idea being that it would be easier for the welsh soldiers to differentiate friend from foe. Another school of thought suggests that the Saxons were defeated not only by a superior force, but also by the “smell” of leeks as well.
In the anonymous Philosopher’s Banquet 1633 we find the following advice:
If leeks you like, but do their smell dislike, eat onions, and you shall not smell like leek. If you of onions would the scent expel, eat garlic that shall drown the onion’s smell.
The Americans, who appear to have a law for everything, have declared that in Hartsburg, Illinois; it’s illegal to chew on an onion in the local cinema; whilst in West Virginia, children are forbidden to come to school smelling of “wild onions”; and not to be left out, the husbands of Alexandria in Minnesota are forbidden to make love to their wives if their breath smells of garlic, onions, or somewhat weirdly sardines.
All is not lost though, as popular remedies include chewing cardamom seeds, parsley, cloves, celery and coffee beans. Although Pliny the Elder wrote a paen on the joys of a lightly roasted beetroot.