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Garlic Capital of the World

Garlic Capital of the World: Gilroy, Garlic, and the Making of a Festive Foodscape

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Garlic Capital of the World
    Book Description:

    According to Pauline Adema, you smell Gilroy, California, before you see it. InGarlic Capital of the World, the folklorist and culinary anthropologist examines the role of food and festivals in creating a place brand or marketable identity. The author scrutinizes how Gilroy, California, successfully transformed a negative association with the pungent bulb into a highly successful tourism and marketing campaign.

    This book explores how local initiatives led to an iconization of the humble product in Gilroy. The city, a well-established agricultural center and bedroom community south of San Francisco, rapidly built a place-brand identity based on its now-famous moniker, "Garlic Capital of the World." To understand Gilroy's success in transforming a local crop into a tourist draw, Adema contrasts the development of this now-thriving festival with events surrounding the launch and demise of the PigFest in Coppell, Texas. Indeed, the Garlic Festival is so successful that the event is all that many people know about Gilroy.

    Adema explores the creation and subsequent selling of foodscapes or food-themed place identities. This seemingly ubiquitous practice is readily visible across the country at festivals celebrating edibles like tomatoes, peaches, spinach, and even cauliflower. Food, Adema contends, is an attractive focus for image makers charged with community building and place differentiation. Not only is it good to eat; food can be a palatable and marketable symbol for a town or region.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-333-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Making a Foodscape Gilroy and the Iconization of Garlic
    (pp. 3-23)

    You smell Gilroy before you see it. As you drive south from San Jose on California’s Highway 101, a few miles north of the city the air changes. When you roll down the car window and inhale, you are aware of a distinctive aroma. It reminds you of something. It is not unpleasant. It is familiar, yet somehow elusive. Residents used to joke that one could make garlic bread by waving a fresh loaf of bread out the window during the garlic processing season.¹ Yes, that is the smell, garlic—not burnt and acrid, not raw and peppery, but toasted...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Festivalization of Garlic Creating and Celebrating Community in Gilroy
    (pp. 24-43)

    Hours before the gates officially open, a long line of slow-moving cars snakes through Gilroy. The Festival goers inside the cars are getting an early start so that they can enjoy the Festival ahead of the day’s inevitable heat and Festival crowds. The visitors’ gradual approach heightens their anticipation of the food and festive fun that awaits them at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. To accommodate the thousands of visitors who descend on Gilroy each day of the three-day festival, a rancher donates the use of some of his land adjacent to the Festival site. For the weekend these dusty fields...

  6. CHAPTER THREE From Foreign to Fad Garlic’s Twentieth-Century Transition
    (pp. 44-59)

    Gilroyans who are sentimental about the days when Gilroy’s air reminded them of spaghetti sauce are also realistic. They know that not everyone appreciates the ever-present olfactory stimulation that blankets southern Santa Clara Valley during processing season, and that a negative reputation can spread further and linger longer than Gilroy’s distinctive smell. Food columnist Elizabeth Mehren incorporated comments of derision about Gilroy’s “pungent presence” into newspaper articles published in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, emphasizing the city’s odoriferous reputation (Mehren 1979a, 1979b, 1979c). Former garlic farmer, local chef, and Festival cofounder Val Filice reminisced that years ago, as he...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Garlic Galore Festival Inversion, Subversion, and the Enactment of Labor Relations
    (pp. 60-81)

    Twice each day during the Festival, a crowd gathers around a hay bale–defined circular demonstration area centrally located on the Festival site. Fully exposed to the sun’s glaring rays, Festival goers sit on the hay or stand in uneven rows behind it, anticipating a show. At noon and again at three in the afternoon, Bill Christopher, one of the owners of Christopher Ranch and son of Festival cofounder Don Christopher, enters the circle and begins introducing the contestants, all of whom are already kneeling on the ground preparing their work space. “Let’s give a big round of applause for...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Place Branding and Selling Place Creating and Marketing Identity Capital
    (pp. 82-104)

    When Rudy Melone proposed the Gilroy Garlic Festival, he had two agendas. He asserted that “the garlic festival will proudly celebrate the worth of garlic and help create a positive and favorable image of Gilroy” (1979b). The secondary purpose was to generate revenue to help the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce become independent of City support. As it turns out, the latter did not happen but the former did. During my interviews with Gilroyans, I heard time and again versions of this narrative: “I was on vacation and someone asked where I was from. Before the Festival no one knew where...

  9. CHAPTER SIX “This little piggy went to PigFest …” The Paradox of PigFest
    (pp. 105-140)

    Not all place-based food festivals bear such sweet smells as garlic and success. PigFest, like the Gilroy Garlic Festival, was initiated to commemorate a historic, food-themed place association for and within the hosting community. Drawing on Coppell, Texas’s, agricultural past—until the 1980s, much of the land on which the city now sits was farmland—civic leaders organized the first annual PigFest in 1996. While pigs are potentially as much, if not more fun, than garlic as an organizing theme, the event did not work. After being canceled just one month before its advertised date in 2000, PigFest went the...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Festive Foodscapes Food Symbolization and Place Making
    (pp. 141-150)

    Entertainment, arts, and culture form what John Hannigan calls the “new economic grail” for cities hoping to secure a competitive edge in the commodity-driven modern world (2003, 352). Food should be included on that list as well. It is a potentially lucrative and tenacious subject matter for theming a locality, asserting differentiation through aggrandizement, securing a place brand, and concurrently generating senses of place and community. Calendars across the country illustrate the ubiquity of food as a theme for communal celebrations, from place-specific food festivals to “Taste of …” festivals to ethnicity or culturally specific food festivals, all indicating that...

  11. APPENDIX A Coppell, Texas, and Area Data
    (pp. 151-152)
  12. APPENDIX B Contributing Individuals
    (pp. 153-154)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 155-172)
    (pp. 173-190)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 191-196)