Text by Sorush Khalesi
Garlic enthusiast Peter McClusky is the founder of the Toronto Garlic Festival, as well as a consultant for the Greenbelt Foundation. Most importantly, he is also a garlic farmer. Garlic and its history have greatly impacted McClusky’s life, and inspired him to author Ontario Garlic: The Story from Farm to Festival.
Garlic has had a very long and interesting history, where it has stood for hate, health, humility, and ultimately, culture. Inspired by garlic’s unique story, McClusky brings to light that history. In his book, McClusky describes the journey of garlic in Ontario from a despised herb to a celebrated spice. From the first immigrants who introduced garlic to the province, to the festival and joyous celebrations we have today in honour of it, McClusky tells the story of one of the oldest flavourings in the world.
Why does garlic have its own festival and history book?
Well, because it deserves it. As I say about garlic at the Toronto Garlic Festival, garlic is the celebrity. Virtually every age, and culture and background of people love garlic and have interesting stories around garlic. It’s the flavour and long history that people are celebrating, and that’s why they love the Toronto Garlic Festival.
Tell us something about garlic we don’t know.
I think one thing that people don’t seem to know about garlic is that it’s susceptible to heat, so when you cook garlic, it tends to destroy that flavour… An interesting fact for people to take away is that if you want garlic for medicinal purposes, for example, then you want a strong garlic; you shouldn’t cook it, you just eat it raw and thoroughly crushed.
Do you look forward to writing any more books?
Maybe. Right now, I’m focused on garlic, but who knows what may happen in the future.
Are you a talented cook?
Yeah, I’m a pretty good cook. I cooked in restaurants years ago. At one point, I thought of becoming a chef, but decided not to, so I pursued other things. But in the meantime, I enjoy cooking every day.