Don’t Cry for Me Chopping Onions

Posted: March 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Discoveries, Extended Family, Food, Friends and Strangers, Little Rhody, Miss Kate | 1 Comment »

My Aunt Mary, who was my neighbor growing up in Rhode Island–and who my sisters and I call “aunt” even though she ain’t blood kin–is one of those dazzling people who children instantly adore.

At an amazingly spry 90 years old, she remembers every word to seemingly every children’s song, including the little hand gestures. Kate was still an infant when she met her for the first time, and even then she was enraptured. Today, the love is more about the home-baked cakes Kate’s come to know Aunt Mary always has on hand.  She serves up big slices with glasses of milk, and Kate sits blissfully on the same wooden stool at the same yellow linoleum counter where my sisters and I used to preside.

Aunt Mary is nothing short of a legend. I’m so happy my kids have gotten to know her. I just wish her wonderful kitchen wasn’t now so many miles away.

So, back when I was the one begging baked goods, Aunt Mary used to tell us there was a little girl, clearly some sort of ghost-girl (though she never quite spelled that out) who lived in her attic. She said her name was Isabelle Onnabike—which just a few years ago I realized was a pun for ‘Is a bell on a bike?’ I think she must have found that funny, but maybe didn’t realize we weren’t in on the joke. Or perhaps she knew we didn’t get it and that was what delighted her.

Another thing I remember her often saying, or rather singing, was, “I’m a lonely little petunia in an onion patch, and all I do is cry all day!”

I’m sure there are other verses to this odd song, but as I said, she’s the one who remembers the words to these things, not me.

Anyway, I thought of that ditty the other day since I seem to somehow be channeling Heloise and her tactics for avoiding the onion-cutting weepies.

Kate’s old nanny came over one day last week to provide childcare and psychological relief for me while Mark was out of town. I also managed to convince her to whip up a batch of her chicken and sweet potato curry for us. So I got a couple dinners out of the deal too.

When she arrived she enlisted Kate’s eager help with the cooking. Her first instructional comment being, “So first we need to put the onions in the refrigerator so they’ll get cold and we won’t cry when we cut them.”

Huh. Who knew?

Then on Saturday, when Randy came over to do some front porch sitting, we were drinking iced tea—as one does on a front porch (unless it’s an hour when one should be drinking alcohol, which, sadly, it wasn’t quite yet). There were quotes or fun facts or something written in our bottle caps, and I actually decided to read mine. It said that if you chew gum while you’re cutting onions, you won’t cry.

Randy thought it was bullshit.

As for me, I don’t have the energy—or enough interest, frankly—to test either tip.

I’m just curious why the universe is sending me so many pointers on this issue. Perhaps it’s time for me to rejoin the workforce? And I’m going to be pulling long shifts of KP duty, peeling potatoes and chopping onions?

Or maybe I’ll be reincarnated, some hopefully far-off day, as a lonely little petunia in an onion patch?

Hard to say how my immersion in onions will manifest itself, but it seems prudent for me to keep these tactics—and my old ski goggles—handy, just in case.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “Don’t Cry for Me Chopping Onions”

  1. 1 Becca said at 1:01 pm on April 2nd, 2009:

    I was always taught to chew a piece of bread… no tears. I can’t make sense of it, but it works.

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