Mes oignons

My onionsI am here today to tell you all about onions. Mes oignons that is – mine, not yours.

Yours would not be at all appropriate. According to French wisdom, I must mind my own onions, which is to say my own business.

So here are my onions. Rather cheeky, no? There they were, all tressed up so prettily, until I started using them up and – voilà! Was inspired to take a photo that set them off in all their glory.

Ah, the onion. Such a wonderful member of the Allium family. So humble, yet so strong. Along with leeks, garlic, chives…this family is one like my own. Outspoken, atypical, memorable – if at times rather overpowering. The French favour the shallot, l’échalote, for its gentler, more subtle flavour. At least it doesn’t make me cry.

I love how the onion has all those intricately packed layers, hard yet soft, and a papery outer skin. I love its bulbousness. I love how it melts, how it browns and most of all, how it caramelizes. I love the onion in so many ways: pissaladière, onion tart, with tomatoes, potatoes, eggs, fish and, most memorably of all, cheese.

My favourite onions are red. Most often enjoyed raw, they’re also lovely on the barbeque, in a stir fry or combined with other kinds of onion. Here they are featured in one of my favourite winter dips – when it gets cold, I am a still a North American at heart.

I also love the French expression for minding your own business: Occupe-toi de tes oignons. Why onions? I looked it up and, lo and behold, there is a reason. It would seem that the French woman was first given a small measure of independence in being allowed to cultivate a portion of the garden as an onion patch, which she could then take to market and sell to make a bit of money. You can read all about it here (in French).

And let’s not forget that sometimes onions produce beautiful flowers.

Do you have a favourite onion? Or it that any of my business?



  1. wanderingcows · September 23, 2015

    What’s wonderful little ditty about onions. I like the red ones too. They’re a bit more flavoursome I reckon, and a bit sweeter, and fry up well. Shame about the tears. But I can cope with that. And I agree, onion flowers are very pretty.

    • MELewis · September 23, 2015

      Clearly we are aligned on onions. Thanks for adding your two cents’ worth!

  2. memoirsofahusk · September 23, 2015

    Cheeky picture ME! Do you know the song -‘ the world is just a great big onion’? ‘Hate and fear are the spices that make you cry’? Yes, where would a cook be without onions. Decorative alliums have become so popular here – white, pink, purple, ever bigger and ?better? – but I love our ‘border’ (I’m flattering it) of chives with their little purple flowers. Edible and pretty too.

    • MELewis · September 23, 2015

      Don’t know the song but can relate to the lament! We also had some lovely decorative purple alliums in our garden this year, but I love my little chive flowers too!

  3. Mél@nie · September 23, 2015

    excellente plaidoirie pour les oignons… j’aime bien les rouges et les blancs – mais tjs crus, jamais cuits!!! 🙂

    • MELewis · September 23, 2015

      Somehow that does not surprise me, Melanie! You are a strong, fearless soul of the raw onion type! 😉

  4. cheergerm · September 23, 2015

    Love, love this post. The cheeky photo, your familial metaphor and obvious love of the humble allium that is at the heart of so much good food. I love all alliums; brown, shallots, chives, leeks, red. (Except for white, they are ok but I never buy them.) I could have minded my own onions but I have always been a nosy parker.

    • MELewis · September 23, 2015

      High praise indeed, Mrs. Cheer! Oddly, French recipes often call for white onions but I rarely buy them either. It’s confusing as they also call green onions white here, so I think the ones they mean are actually the little fresh ones. I need to get nosier and dig some more… 😉

  5. Osyth · September 23, 2015

    Sometimes, when pointlessly contemplating my navel, I wonder what ingredient I literally could not do without. It is the onion. In answer to your question – I’m generally a lady of shallot but in truth I love them all 🙂

    • MELewis · September 23, 2015

      Osyth, dear, it is never pointless to contemplate one’s navel – at least I hope not or my life can be consider wasted. Shallots are also lovely and somehow more elegant. And I just discovered at the market that there are almost as many kinds of garlic as there are onions!

  6. Food,Photography & France · September 23, 2015

    Lovely post….crazy shot:)

    • MELewis · September 23, 2015

      Merci Roger. I will never look at an onion the same way again…. 😉

  7. George Lewisance · September 23, 2015

    Do you get Vidalia onions in F

  8. George Lewis · September 23, 2015

    What I meant to type was (Do you get Vidalia onions in France ? they are American , white and very sweet. Probably my favorite but I like them all)

    • MELewis · September 23, 2015

      I have never heard of them but google tells me they are strictly from Georgia, so I doubt it. That said, they look a lot like many of our onions! You must put them on the menu next time we visit!

  9. Katherine Wikoff · September 24, 2015

    Now I wonder if the equivalent American expression, “Mind your own beeswax,” has a similar background. I always figured it was because beeswax sounded a little like “business.” But might farm women have kept bees and sold honey and beeswax candles, etc., the way French women did onions?

  10. peakperspective · September 27, 2015

    Oh, the humble, underappreciated onion. Your post did it proud. I am a big fan, and I’m still laughing over the photo. Mel.

    • MELewis · September 27, 2015

      Thanks, Shelley! Rather relieved it did not offend…. 🙂

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