Do it yourself food
Give them a llittle added kick.
Give your onions a good kick
You wouldn’t think an onion could be viewed as a time travelling device but the huge one I discovered at a stall at the Nelson Market recently certainly was. Long ago, in what one of Amy Tan’s characters calls ‘little girl time’, I had held another such giant onion in my hand. I was on my OE in Canada, working for a homeopath in British Columbia and compiling an organic handbook for the area. One of the joys of the job was interviewing organic growers to find out what they had to offer, when and where.
I had received a lead on an elderly couple growing organically living down near Osoyoos, not far from the US border, so I cruised on down in my boss’s smart little MGB to find them. At this stage of my life I thought I knew it all, but I didn’t realise until I took that Nelson giant onion into my hands just what an impact those folks had on the course of my life from that point onwards. They were, without wanting to sound too clichéd, lovely people, kind and generous (they gave me one of their giant white onions to take home), patient and totally passionate about living simply and organically in communion with the earth. They showed me a different way to be.
With the slow care of elderly people who had worked hard all their lives, with smiles on their faces, they took me out to have a look around, showing me the deer paths traversing through their extensive garden patch. At one point, they had considered fencing it, but after observing the deer for a while they realised that they were happy to share a bit of what they had. There were scarecrows set up, and flicker tape to keep grazing to a minimum, but after 35 years the deer had become companions and there was no desire to frighten them away.
They told me they had met an elder from the local First Nations tribe years ago, who encouraged them to talk to the deer, to ask the animals to respect their need to grow food. This, they believed, had worked, creating yet another sacred and necessary connection with their surrounding environment.
With these pleasant memories coursing through my mind, I took it upon myself to make something interesting with my Nelson onions. Usually they are a means to an end in my kitchen, such as in a soup or stew. I had never thought of them as a special vegetable in their own right until a friend of ours, Monyeen, who lived in Lochmara Bay for many years, once asked me if I knew a good recipe for onion marmalade. I had never tasted it so hunted some down. I was disappointed. There was no WOW factor in this brown
There was no WOW factor in this brown stuff so I didn't
stuff, so I didn’t go out and make any.
Then I came across this version (at right) and it has been quite a hit in my heat-and-onion-loving family. In fact, onion marmalade on fresh balsamic onion bread turned out to be very tasty indeed. One thing I did find though is that the taste of the onion marmalade changes considerably depending on what variety of chili you use. My favourites have to be habeneros, with their earthy rich flavour.
Theo (10) has recently learnt that onions have a ninja side. We all know that as soon as you cut into an onion, tears begin to course merrily down the cheeks. All sorts of remedies are suggested: holding a peg between your teeth, wearing sunglasses, freeze the onion halves for 10 minutes before you chop. What I now know, thanks to Theo, is that the humble onion is only doing its best to defend itself. It doesn’t want me to eat it so it tries to stop me by blinding me with allyl sulphide gas. This gas, when mixed with moisture (water) converts into sulfuric acid thus causing the classic signs of irritation to mucus membranes, eyes and skin that we all love to hate, given our love for all things with onion. n