Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Onions deconstructed

In a kitchen the onion is second only to the potato in importance; in the wider world it seems a limited basis for entertainment. Hence an investigatory visit to the Newent Onion Fair.

We could easily have missed the onions. The streets of this little Gloucestershire town were host to carousels, a Ferris wheel, slides, stalls selling cheese, wine and sausages and stalls run by charities and local organisations. “In the community hall,” we were told.

Stepping inside I stepped back fifty years to my weekly newspaper days when vegetable shows ruined many a Saturday afternoon I’d have preferred to devote to rock-climbing or motorbiking. This was the original nucleus of the larger event in Newent: a gardening competition based on onions. Produce arranged in a layout as far removed from nature as possible. Rosettes had been awarded; condemnation too. Against one exhibit was attached – rather cruelly I thought – a note saying that one onion’s diameter had exceeded 30 mm and was therefore disqualified.

Zach slid, rotated and consumed a whistle made out of sweetmeats. He also climbed enthusiastically into a fire engine. This reminded me of our local fun fair intended to gather data for a parish plan. I quote from the newsletter: BARRETT BONDEN. General dogsbody. Accosted at 11.30, and then every 20-minutes by a ten-year-old who wanted to know when the fire engine would arrive. Told the ETA was 2 pm, he showed up at 2.05 pm to register what was clearly an official complaint. “The engine might be attending a fire,” BB said. The lad’s frown suggested this wasn’t a plausible excuse.

Kids love fire engines


Plutarch said...

Heidi has a sort of cousin who doesn´t like onions in any form, a phobia I can´t associate with the human race. I suspect the cousin of coming from a distant planet.

Rouchswalwe said...

Now that is a happy face! The hat and the shoes are fantastic.
I am reminded of a cute expression in German ~ whereas an English-speaking woman would wear her hair up in a bun, the German would have an onion, sie hat eine Zwiebel.

The Crow said...

Many years ago, when I was two days away from payday and the cupboard was nearly completely bare, I found three onions, half a dozen apples, some butter, a rind of dried Swiss cheese and some wheat crackers, which were to be my supper.

I sautéed the onions and apple slices in butter until both were almost melted, they were so soft. After allowing the resulting goop to cool a little, I grated the cheese into it, then spread all on the crackers. From desperation came a dish that I've loved ever since. My pantry always has onions and apples.

I have pictures of Donovan when he was about Zach's age, at the firehouse down the street. He was wearing a similar very happy little boy smile.


Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: Your astonished reaction to Heidi's "sort of cousin" (I liked that) has now become embedded in my brain. Think of all the dishes that are denied to that person - in fact much of the vegetarian range would be taboo. Strange.

RW (zS): Perhaps the phrase defines the gustatory differences between the two countries: sweet tooth for the UK, savoury for Germany.

The Crow: This is the traditional "making something out of nothing" by which good cooks infuriate bad cooks (eg, me). Oh it was effortless. Yes, I'm sure.

The attraction of the fire engine seems universal. What is that festive occasion in the US when the fire trucks join the rest of the town's population and parade down the High Street? I must have watched the event half a dozen times in different towns/villages

Lucy said...

Did you know that Plutarch and I met over a bunch of Roscoff pink onions? In a virtual sense that is, so there was no aroma, which was a shame as Roscoff pinks are very fragrant and don't make you cry, owing to the low levels of 'acidulité' in these rosy little alliums, a result of the unique Roscoff terroir...

Festivals devoted to specific vegetables sound very French. Near here we have the Ploeuc-sur-Lié (yes, that is pronounced 'plurk') 'Journee de la pomme de terre en fête' which I regret to say I have never attended.

All this talk of onions is making me hungry; I think I shall go and fry myself a panful and have fried onion sandwiches. I hope I have some (spem in allium?)...

The Crow said...

In this part of Pennsylvania, fire engines seem to be a part of any and every occasion that requires a parade,

Any community that holds a firemen's carnival in summer has a parade of engines to the carnival site.

Fire trucks escort Santa into town to open the Santa's House on the Square downtown. Memorial Day and Veterans' Day parades would be the poorer without fire trucks, as would our huge Halloween Parade.

One year, Gettysburg hosted a gathering of fire companies from several states in the region and the fire trucks and other pieces of emergency equipment arrived in swarms of light and sound - magnificent!

I must confess that sliding down the fireman's pole has been my secret desire since I was a girl. Maybe I'll add that to my bucket list.


Spadoman said...

My onion stories:

In my favorite book, "Two Years Before the Mast", Richard Henry Dana tells of being close to scurvy and eating raw onions, replenishing the vitamin C in their bodies with tears rolling down their cheeks, but loving every drop of onion.

I use a whole onion, peel the skin, make a cross on each end. Place a pat of butter on the crosses and wrap in aluminum foil. Throw them on the grill. They caramelize and are tasty, soft and sweet. I love these on mashed potatoes or with green beans.

I know this post was about more than onions, but I was just about to go to the grocer and pick up a few supplies and onions are on my list.


Relucent Reader said...

My great-grandfather wouldn't allow onions in the house, my father told me.
I do, as I enjoy 'em, all kindsa ways.
Fire engines,even oldish privately owned vehicles, have appeared in parades and celebrations for years.I remember them in parades in E Weymouth MA, and they pop up in the parades nowadays in Mechanicsville and Ashland VA. The kids do love 'em: noisy, bright, and all that polished chrome catches a boys' eye.
Always enjoy reading your blog.

Spadoman said...

Life is like an onion. You peel it off a layer at a time and sometimes you weep.

Author unknown.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: The encounter sounds very Plutarchian and, for all I know, very Lucidian. By the way, I don't recall any mention in your description of the meeting, of Plutarch's hat. He appears to have dozens and is always keen to wear one that is completely at odds with his mood. When he arrived at fashionable Moro's he was wearing a sort of leather sombrero that was villainy personified. Yet he knifed no one (unless it was in the Gents) and was all sunniness during our protracted conversation. Since there's another of those in the offing I shall report back on his choice of headgear.

The Crow: If you are really keen on sliding down a fireman's pole (rather than engaging in some secret fantasy) you must do as I did and learn how to shin up a lamppost. Sliding is by far the easier bit. The trick lies in the thighs.

Spadoman: I read Dana's book sixty years ago, then picked up a secondhand copy a year or so ago. I enjoyed the re-read despite the fact that nothing (narrative, style, details) corresponded
with my dim dim memories of first time around. Two good books for the price of one, as it were.
Onions will play a significant role in dinner tonight where they will be turned into gravy to go with our sausages. Tonight will also be memorable since it will see the inauguration of the production version of the sausage fork which I have had made to simplify the task of ensuring all-round browning of the banger. The production version, Mig-welded from 3 mm stainless steel, is a refined version of the prototype I blogged about a month or so ago.

Barrett Bonden said...

RR: Perhaps your great-grandfather was an embryonic vampire. Garlic may not have been as omnipresent then as it is now, and an embargo on onions may have covered his worries.

Privately owned fire-engines! What type of person decides to own one? Clearly getting into the cab of one as a youth must be an even more powerful experience than we are acknowledging.

Occasional Speeder said...

Just another thing on E-bay..

Lucy said...

That was in fact a virtual meeting , so his headgear at the time remains unknown to me. I was writing a post about Roscoff pink onions, and in my Googling to find out more about them, came across a post of his wherein he described a bunch of them sitting on his kitchen counter, a Beautiful Thing indeed. So in fact we actually 'met' over two bunches of Roscoff pinks, one in his kitchena and one in mine.

However I have witnessed the leather sombrero, which, you're right, does have something the air of a spaghetti western about it...

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: Thanks for detecting my puzzlement. Truly a virtual union blessed by the vegetable bin. Mrs BB has added a further detail: the onions you refer to are, apparently, those I love (especially raw in salads) when in France. For some reason the supermarkets make them easy to identify by leaving them covered in honest dirt: le boue snob no doubt as with Breton carrots.