Swimming with the Onions

Swimming with the Onions – Elaine Davey

There’s much to be said for having a gadget-free kitchen.

Especially when, like mine, its dimensions are about the same as a medium-sized executive home’s bathroom. And when I say my kitchen is gadget-free I mean it. Not only do I not possess a microwave, food processor, veg chopper, toastie pie maker, milkshake machine or juicer, I am also lacking a hand-whisk, rolling pin, nutcracker, egg or fat separater, or garlic crusher. I used to have most of these items but over the years they have either broken or disappeared and substitute aids roped-in for the interim are now fixtures.

To whit: glass jars, a hammer and biceps.

The glass jar is a versatile item. It rolls my pastry (and cuts the rounds), “whisks” up the cream and shakes up my yorkshire pudding mixture. All the while strengthening my upper arms – no unsightly flab there. The hammer is used frequently in conjunction with a small polythene bag. The cloves go in the bag and after a hearty whacking I have crushed garlic – or shallots, or nuts, or biscuits.

My aid to cake-mixing is elbow grease, I separate eggs through my fingers, skim off fat with a pre-frozen tablespoon, and squeeze juice with my fist (it helps if you warm the citrus fruit in the oven beforehand).

There does however come a time when you yearn for a gadget.

A gadget that invariably has yet to be invented…like a little something that will automatically peel shallots and pickling onions whilst leaving them whole.

I have not peeled pickling onions since Invercargill in the mid 1980s. This was a time and place when and where it was highly fortunate for me that people confronted with a potentially threatening situation did not immediately call upon the resources of the Armed Offenders’ Squad. It was also a time when Boy Scouts (for they were of the male persuasion then) came knocking on doors seeking bottles for fundraising purposes.

On my second pound of pickling onion peeling, donned in my late father’s hideous swim goggles (circa 1920, small black lenses and lots of draping blue rubber) to prevent precipitations of the tear ducts, and with sharp knife in hand I immediately responded to a knock on the back door.

The best that can be said of that unfortunate encounter is that it may have helped the Boy Scout achieve his sprinting badge a little quicker. The worst was that 10 minutes later Mr Scout Leader Man and His Deputy turned up to assess the situation.

Which brings me bang up to the here and now. I have just spent a deal of time peeling shallots. I have dripped from the eyes and the nose, am worn out trying to get bits of shallot “paper” off my fingers, and used half a box of Kleenex (okay, that’s a fib – who buys boxes of tissues when the toilet roll is to hand?). I am so ready for the shallot-peeling gadget. Bring it on thanks.

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