DSCF6345No smell announces the preparation of a meal better than the rich, sweet aroma of sautéing onions. It’s a humble staple of my pantry that I couldn’t do without. Luckily, I live in an area famous for its onions. I keep a special pair of blue swim goggles in my kitchen drawer for chopping the extremely pungent variety that grow in our region of New York State. Known as the Black Dirt, the fertile soil—a result of an ancient glacial lake—is rich in organic matter and sulfur. DSCF5037The latter gives our local onions their intense flavor and earns them a spot in farmer’s markets and supermarkets all over the Northeast.

IMG_8688IMG_8684Starting in April armies of bright green shoots march across the black dirt. By July, they’re standing tall. And in August the stalks wilt, their purpose served.DSCF6369 In September the heady scent of onions pervades the air and the onion crates are stacked high in the fields, waiting to be stored or transported to market.DSCF6366DSCF6357 DSCF6333

Ode To The Onion by Pablo Neruda
luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.


24 thoughts on “ODE TO ONIONS

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Had a girl who sat beside me in 6th grade whose father gave her onion sandwiches every time she had a cold. I’ll never forget her!

  1. charissagrace

    I very much relate to the onion, for deep reasons…and hope someday to be a rosebud, unfolding layer by layer with aromas sweet and fragrant rather than harsh and bringing tears.
    Thanks for the beautiful post,

  2. teacupsandtyrants

    How lovely to see an appreciation of onions. They are so often overlooked, but they add so much to meals. The pictures are lovely. And thank you for the Neruda poem. I had no idea he had written about onions.

  3. Ann

    Nice photos! Those onions look so fresh – I want to grab one and use it in a salad or a pot of soup. A lot of dishes would be so bland and boring without onions.

  4. pearlz

    Absolutely loved this blog, and the poem you found to go with it just perfect. I’ve been thinking a lot about strawberries lately but am nowhere near a strawberry field.

  5. Tish Farrell

    Onions! What a delight. I can’t cook without them, or do a salad for that matter. But that black, black soil. How I long for it in my allotment. I can feel seedlings trembling with excitement as they grow in that lovely stuff. I however, have claggy, grey, rotting down fossil volcanic ash to grow things in. It’s a big challenge – especially to onions that more often than not rebel, and grow no bigger than marbles. Hey ho.

  6. SuzyHazelwood

    I love the fragrance of onions frying, such a wonderful smell. I’ve never had to resort to the swim goggles – yet. I’m guessing these must be very powerful to need goggles! It’s amazing how different they all taste, and surprising how many people don’t often try different varieties. I find red onions are very attractive in salads but look dreadful if you put them into a pale creamy coloured soup and blend it all, they just turn everything a sludge colour – still tastes the same though! Thanks for the recipe link, it reminds me of a quiche. I do love a cheese and onion quiche! 😀

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      We even have a raw onion eating contest in our area. If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes . . . Thanks for reading!

  7. Jose Escobar

    Just simple and elementary things but so nicely portrayed. I remember this poem by Neruda, it is a nice one. He really had a way to express love for all things through words. Regards. Jose

  8. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

    I appreciate your comments. Yes, I couldn’t begin to compete with Neruda in the poetry department, so I gave him the last word on onions.


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