“And I especially commend you for eating onions; they contain all health; they induce sleep; they may be called the apples of content, or again, the companion fruits of mankind.”
Hilaire Belloc, “The Onion Eater” in The Hills and the Sea
Eating is often an occasion for reflecting on deeper matters. One of the literally wonder-full aspects of eating is the things that grow from the earth for our sustenance and delight.
Consider the onion. It’s a remarkably handsome vegetable, whether in its purplish-red form or more modest yellow or white. Its flavor is proverbial, lending itself to being a dish all its own, or to its more common role of enhancing countless other foods, from vegetables to meats to salads. Its reputed health benefits are wide, almost unmatched, including blood sugar, the heart, digestion and bones. Replete with antioxidants it is a known cancer-fighter.
Belloc’s essay has always caught my attention, as it tells of his meeting an interesting hiker in his beloved Sussex, a man who draws from his pocket a piece of bread and an onion. The man shares half his onion with Belloc, forming a special bond between them. In response to Belloc’s words above, the man says: “I have always said that when the couple of them left Eden they hid and took away with them an onion. I am moved in my soul to have known a man who reveres and loves them in due measure, for such men are rare.”
Perhaps such men as truly appreciate any food in due measure are rare.
This hiker gentleman would not have found me a partaker in the pleasure of a raw onion on the trail. I must admit: as I think on those two savoring an onion together I wonder whether my tastes are a bit under-developed, or overly-accustomed to what is sweet.
One way I think I’ll develop my onion appreciation is by pickling them in saltwater—it is really quite straight forward, and it produces a delightfully unique and flavorful addition to any meal, and one especially nutritious.
Then I will look to enjoy them together with others—family, friends, or guests. And we will have occasion once again to reflect and be grateful together, for the astounding things that with some cultivation leap forth from the earth, to nourish and cheer our hearts.
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), born of a French father and English mother, was a poet, historian, and essayist. This quote is from one of his most delightful collections of essays, The Hills and the Sea.
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