The allure of alliums
The allure of alliums
by Connie Berry
Arrive at my house in Vineyard Haven anytime around 6 pm and you’ll find me either peeling, chopping, or dicing garlic and onions. These aromatic alliums are the foundation of almost everything I cook, thanks to my son Dan, whose favorite go-to phrase in the kitchen is: “Gonna eat the onions ‘til they’re all gone.”
Dan’s 25 and he’s autistic; when he loves something, he loves it deeply. When he was a little boy his two loves were vacuum cleaners and beaded necklaces. He looked for vacuum cleaners in every store we went to and carried several strands of brightly colored Mardi Gras beads with him at all times. These days his love of onions and garlic supersedes just about everything else when it comes to food. As soon as he hears me getting the wooden cutting board out, Dan makes tracks to the kitchen. I’m not a fan of pre-chopped veggies because they never seem to taste as good as when you chop them yourself. So I chop. Dan likes to grab any little piece of stray onion or garlic that falls off the cutting board and pop it into his mouth. I probably buy more onions and garlic than anyone I know. I also buy more Listerine than anyone I know.
According to the internet, onions were used as currency in the Middle Ages, and were even buried with the pharaohs, considered appropriate, since all those rings that symbolize eternity. And, the website “Britishonions.co” even states: “The onion has a reputation as a potent aphrodisiac and has been referenced in many classic Hindu texts on the art of making love.” The site also says that in the days of the Egyptian pharaohs a few thousand years ago, celibate priests were forbidden to eat onions because of the potential effects on their libido. Who knew?
I also did a little garlic research. Even webmd.com recognizes the benefits of garlic. It’s been used to treat everything from heart disease to prostate cancer to snake bites. Not to mention the whole “keeps vampires at bay” benefit. Dan loves garlic so much that he pours garlic powder on top of the already garlicky curry I make. He pours it on top of pizza and french fries too. He can’t get enough.
Dan works at Thimble Farm, helping with the hydroponic planting and bagging up veggies to sell. I’m concerned because I’ve heard they’re adding garlic to the list of plants they grow, and onions will be added soon as well. I’m torn. Do I tell them about Dan’s enthusiasm for both, or do I let them find out the hard way? Maybe I should just apologize now in print. Dear IGI: I’m sorry if my son Dan has eaten all your alliums.
Dan’s not particular about the types of alliums he consumes. He’s just as likely to take a bite out of a red onion as he is to snatch some diced shallots or scallions. I usually buy extra bunches of green onions just so I can give him his own bunch. It’s not uncommon for Dan to pick up an onion and chomp through it as if it were a McIntosh apple in autumn.
I have noticed that Dan rarely gets colds, so maybe he’s onto something with the alliums. He is known as the genius in our family after all. His siblings refer to him as “Baby Jesus.” They say that I think he walks on water. I think they’re just jealous.
By now we’re all used to this base in all our dishes at home, and I think we’ve all grown to love garlic and onions. We always eat em ‘til they’re all gone. IGI: I’m sorry if Dan has eaten all your alliums.
Connie Berry is the features editor of the Martha’s Vineyard Times, and a longtime contributor to Edible Vineyard.