Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Of Onionesque Thoughts

The onion, now that's something else.
It's innards don't exist.
Nothing but pure onionhood fills this devout onionist.

Oniony on the inside,
onionesque it appears.
It follows its own daimonion
without our human tears

Lines from "The Onion' written by the Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska
about what was once described as a humble vegetable. Not any more. If
you and I know our onions, yes, the ones which come with a designer
tag, daimonion would be more the word, wouldn't it? But come to think
of it, onions are finally taking a breather that's long been due to
them. For aeons they have put the zing thing into our dishes, enhanced
the taste of our curries and have been a ubiquitous part of our
kitchens. It went without saying that potatoes and onions were there
by the basketful. From the grocer's stock to the sturdy kitchen tokri
that's an integral part of the kitchen furniture. Well, by the sound
of it (the price), nobody's going to buy them by the basketful these
days. I suppose onions have never had it so easy, watching life pass
by, and not feel for one single oniony moment that life has passed
them by!!

Remember the first time you learned to cook? Recipes usually instructed
you to peel an onion, chop it, saute it, and everything just fell into
place. But, of course, you had to start with an onion! Later, along the
line, you grated it, roasted it, made white paste, made brown paste;
there was an entire onion world in the kitchen waiting to be explored.
Onions have been around for a long time. They have given shape to some
of the world's best architecture. In ancient times, onions were
believed to have occult and medicinal powers. If old home remedies are
to be believed, they have cured freckles, enhanced hair growth, warded
off diseases and cured common cold. Boiled onions are believed to take
care of worms in children and was supposed to purify the blood and cure
rheumatism. A raw onion cut in half and rubbed in a wasp sting was
believed to cure it instantly.

Every region has their favourite onion recipes. If the French have their
onion soup, the Russians have a thin gruel which is used in the healing
of wounds and fresh burns. But the wonders to what the onion can do to
the Indian curry is legion. If onions are to remain out of reach for the
common man, it would be the end of more than just a flavour, it would be
the end of a way of life. and flavours cannot be substituted. This is a
taste that lingers after you've savoured the dish; the smell remains
long after the meal is over and the guests gone. The aroma of fried onions
wafting through the neighbourhood tells you that someone's dal is being
given a final touch. The price of onions and the drastic cut that households
have imposed on themselves is much discussed these days. And if the
price soars further, I doubt if our kitchens would ever smell the
same again.

N.B.We all feel the pinch when prices of vegetables and other
essentials escalate. The other day while going through some of my
old writings I was struck by the irony of it all. I had put down
these thoughts on paper eleven years ago. And yet, these could've
been written today. The price of onions and potatoes have reached
an all-time high. Not good at all!


Prospero said...

Bermuda is well know for it's onions (something about the soil here). I grow my own onions every year.

Anonymous said...

Here in Georgia, we are known for a sweet onion called Vidalia. I love the taste of onions any way you prepare them.

azplantlady said...

Hello Kanak,

I love onions. I think it is my favorite vegetable made out of a stem of a plant. I don't like how it makes my breath smell after I eat them though.

Wilma said...

Love your Ode to the Onion, Kanak. I think the best onions I have ever tasted are grown in Belize. They rival the expensive Vidalia onions grown in Vidalia, Georgia in the their mild, but flavorful, taste.

Di said...

Hi Kanak,

We generally grow Walla Walla sweets and this year added Texas Sweets, both which did not disappoint.

Kanak, I have selected you to receive the Honest Scrap Award on my blog. ;) Would love to have you participate, but should you chose not too, that is also okay. It takes some time to put it together.

islandgal246 said...

Kanak I can't think of food without onions. I looked at some today in the supermarket and they wanted about 4.00USD for 500g. We also grow some onions here on the island in the dry season but it is not enough for the island so we import most of them.

lotusleaf said...

The poem is very apt. Onions seem to be made of gold leaf these days!

Stephanie said...

Yes those tears! ha ha... hate and love it at the same time :-D I love those yellow big onions, they taste the best in omelettes. Raw onion cures wasp sting? This is good to know. And happy cooking with onions!

Kanak Hagjer said...

Prospero...that sounds wonderful! you must have quite a harvest!

Mildred, thanks for telling me about Vidalia. I've not heard about it before. true!

Wilma...thanks for that bit of info. From whatever I see of Belize in your blog...I find that fascinating!

Di...I don't even know onion names. Names are not mentioned's just onions!!

Thank you for the thought, Di. Will be at yours soon! good thing about posting about onions, or any veggie/spice for that matter, is getting details like this. A little slice of life from your part of the world...thanks!

Padma, I fell in love with the poem when I first came across it in a dal packet from the grocer's. It was a review of the most wonderful poems by Szymborska. What a find that was!!

Steph...what would we do without onions?!!! Happy cooking with onions to you too!!

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Abir Bordoloi said...

Just marvel at your writing, really, really! All of you, listen up! Clink! Clink! She reminds us that it is indeed possible to make time for the most underrated veggie when it comes to odes and stories. Just wow! Really! You have two fans here. :)