Gerard, in his 16th-century "Herbal," wrote that garlic "is an enemie to all cold poysons, and to the bitings of venomous beasts; it taketh away the roughnesse of the throat, it helpeth an old cough . . . and it is a preservative against the contagious and pestilent aire. . ."

Virgil and Aristophanes reported that those who ate garlic increased their strength, while Pliny found it a cure for consumption.

But just as the good fairy was given garlic all these terrific properties, along came the wicked witch and invented garlic breath.

Young lovers look longingly at garlic bread and garlicky stews and then at each other and sadly shake their heads, fearful that when later they whisper I love you, the words will slip out in a pungent puff that ends romance.

Does one wish to be strong, free of plague and consumption, immune to the bites of venomous beasts, or does one wish to be loved?

A terrible choice and one which can be avoided if everyone who loves garlic joins together in a celebration of that potent bulb where the breath of one becomes the breath of all. The plagues of winter and the venomous beasts will be put to rout and love will flourish, since nowhere will you find a happier group than garlic lovers who have been free to indulge for an entire evening.

There are daubes that call for 20 or more unpeeled cloves of garlic; there are garlic sausages and snails resting in garlic butter, tomatoes stuffed with bread crumbs, herbs and garlic; there is Neopolitan spaghetti which is simply spaghetti tossed with a very good olive oil in which has been sauteed cloves of crushed garlic, or bourrides those heavenly fish stews touched lightly with saffron and laden with garlic. There is garlic whole in its skin or peeled, chopped, or mashed, raw or sauteed and how the garlic is used determines the strength and to a degree the flavor. But garlic, god bless it, always remains garlic.

You might ask everyone to bring a favorite garlic dish, or simply work out a menu with your garlic-loving friends. But there is no greater way of announcing what the evening is about than by starting out with a serving of Garlic Toast Rotie a L'ail , lightly toasted slices of whole wheat bread spread with garlic puree, sprinkled with grated breadcrumbs and olive oil and browned in the oven.

To make the garlic puree, blanch cloves of garlic and cook them in butter in a covered pan. Add a few tablespoons of very thick Bechamel sauce, blend and pass the mixture through a sieve, and spread it on the toast.