"Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.” Naomi Shihab Nye
The Traveling Onion by Naomi Shihab Nye
It is believed that the onion originally came from India. In Egypt
it was an object of worship–why I haven’t been able to find out.
From Egypt the onion entered Greece and on to Italy, thence into
all of Europe.
–Better Living Cookbook
When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way knife enters onion, straight
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.
And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,
Poetry, like food, feeds our soul. It does, indeed, call us to pause. It grounds us, lets us breathe more deeply and can transform, in its deceiving simplicity, our perception of the world. That's what I love about this poem from US poet, Naomi Shihab Nye. She brings light to the "something small and forgotten" that we take for granted. She heightens the importance of the "translucence of onion" which, "[f]or the sake of others / disappear."
How many local "small forgotten miracles" - the building blocks of our food history - have been ignored for too long? I would like to feature as many as I can through this blog and illustrate the manners in which they have sustained us and continue to infuse our work in very meaningful ways. If you know one of these invisible contributors and contributions, drop me a line so that I can explore how far they have travelled and how they continue to shape our food stories.