Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Onions and Memories

(family run farmers washing zucchini for the market)

One of the best things about living in a rural community (not too far from the "big city") is the farms and fresh produce.  I had the good fortune to belong to a country family.  A large country family!  Granted, I only had one sibling...a sister, but many, many cousins, aunts and uncles.  And we all lived next door to each other.   Sydney is a very small community, no traffic lights, but for as long as I remember always had a post office.   In fact, that community still only has a post office...and a convenience store. 

But I digress... (whoever came up with that phrase anyway?)  I was given some onions by one of my family members.  So many onions that I knew I wasn't going to use them all before then "went bad", (because two weeks before an aunt gave me a bunch also) so I decided the best thing to do with these was to "put them up"... or freeze 'em. 

When someone asked me, "do you have a food processor?"  "Yep" I say, "two hands and a knife".   They felt sorry for me.  They shouldn't have.  Onion cuttin' gives me a chance to sit and think.   And so I did. 

I thought about growing up in small town, USA.  My life as a child and what I learned from those "farmers".   First, I learned that a farmer is really a gambler.   You never know what the prices, elements or just economy will do to, or for, you and your livelihood.  You learn that there are a lot of sleepless nights, watching the weather reports, sitting with your field either trying to freeze the crops (i.e., strawberries) with water if the temperature dips to try to insulate them for a brief bit so you don't lose your whole crop, and then finding out that your irrigation couldn't do it's job because it was so windy that it blew the water right off the plants. 
(Florida orange groves)

Or worrying about your orange trees in a freeze (you can't water them). So many hardships.  Life isn't glamerous.

But I also learned from farmers, generosity.  Many times we would have a basket or bushel of some vegetable or another at our front door.  No note.  Nothing.  Just the bounty.  Mom would say, or that must've been so-n-so's doing, or "I wonder who this was".  My parents used to love to drive to family or friend's fields and see the progress.
As a child, I would ride along with them for something to do. Chances were, the owner was present at the field too (this is a definite hand's on business!) and they would give my folks whatever they were picking for the day.  The "number one's", not the culls. 
"Number 1's" bring the top dollar at market.  When my mom would offer to pay, they would act offended that she would even suggest such a thing.  "Now, go on.  Don't you even talk such nonsense" I would hear them say. 

There were times, when one relative's tractor or other equipment would break down.  Up would ride another farmer with his to let him use.  Other times, they would just show up and do the job for them and leave.  Not a word said.   I know this might sound like the movies.  But I had the good pleasure of seeing it first-hand.  I know.  

Maybe it's because the farmer's life is hard that they are so free with their charity.  Or maybe their mama and daddy just raised 'em right.  I don't know, but they are a special breed and I'm proud to know some farmers and, most of all, blessed to have them in my life.

See, putting up onions without a food processor has lots of benefits.  And oh, look how much I put up:

The chopped ones for sauces, stews and other dishes.
The "petals" for grilling and saute.


  1. What a great post! I can relate to every word you said. My family didn't live close like your's put I'm certainly cut from the same cloth as you.

  2. I cry just thinking about it!

  3. I'm the granddaughter of a farmer. I grew up with stories from my mom's childhood on the farm. My grandpa had a huge garden and always gave food to the neighbors. (However, I wonder which neighbors because he lived on a farm... didn't they have big gardens too???... maybe it was so small of an area that everyone was a neighbor!)
    I have to ask... what kept you from crying while cutting all those onions?!

  4. LOL. Caren - they were Florida Sweet Onions. and they're sweeter and better (in my opinion) than Vidalia onions! :)


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