Alibi V.16 No.47 • Nov 22-28, 2007 

Ask Chef Boy Ari

Q: Dear Flash,

My girlfriend has more virtues than I could possibly count. Her breath, unfortunately, isn't one of them. She has a love of extremely strong-smelling foods in quantities that are sometimes hard to believe—the other day she made an entire meal of nothing but raw garlic and cabbage, two of the most odiferous foods there are.

Such a meal will haunt her exhalations for hours, and I fear her breath. At first it smelled like garlic and cabbage, which I can just about deal with. But after a few hours it smelled like something crawled down her throat and died. I don't feel good about turning away when she launches her breath in my general direction, but the smell is such a turnoff I don’t have much of a choice. She says garlic is good for you, and she likes it and doesnt want to change her eating habits, although it bothers her that her breath bothers me.

What should we do? —Ducking for Cover

A: Dear Ducker,

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of bad breath: strong-food related, and the kind that's a result of bacteria in your mouth and throat releasing gases or producing little chunks of incredibly foul byproduct that linger in your mouth, tainting your every exhalation.

You can at least count your blessings that your girl's breath is a result of food that is not only good for her, but is in the case of garlic strong enough to keep some of those mouth bacteria in check. In other words, your girlfriend's breath sounds directly related to the stinky components of her diet and not overactive mouth bacteria. That said, I agree that cabbage—especially when it’s partially digested—and raw garlic are quite pungent and can be a challenge to face.

You may have heard that parsley is a good remedy for bad breath and filed it away as an old wives’ tale. But it truly does work, and a lot better in my opinion than gum or breath mints, which in your girlfriend’s case would only create the smell of minty half-digested cabbage and raw garlic—hardly any better than what you started with.

Some people say it’s the chlorophyll in parsley that does it, and that other chlorophyll-rich plants like wheatgrass work as well. So if your girl doesn't like parsley, seek another green alternative. And if that doesn't work, try eating a lot of garlic and cabbage yourself.

Send your food and garden queries to