Josna Rege

294. Without Whom

In Food, Inter/Transnational, Stories on December 27, 2014 at 2:07 pm
Red Chiles, New Mexico © George Bajszár (

Red Chiles, New Mexico © George Bajszár (

At holiday times we express gratitude for our families. Today I wish to praise and give thanks for two special families in my life: the Amaryllidaceae—in particular, the Alliums; and the Solanaceae—in particular the Capsicums; to speak plainly, onions, garlic, and chilies.

glass onion ornament (

glass onion ornament (

The Allium genus has up to 920 different species in it, including not only the indispensible onion and the great, glorious garlic, but shallots, leeks, and chives as well. Alliums are plants of outstanding beauty, and even if we didn’t eat them they would still be a feast for the eyes. Allium is only one among 79 genera in Amaryllidaceae, which also includes, among so many others, Amaryllis, Narcissus, and the beautiful Leucojum, my favorite in my dear friend Marianne’s garden.

Solanaceae, to which the Capsicum genus belongs, is commonly known as the nightshade (as in Deadly) family, with other illustrious members including the tomato, potato, and eggplant (AKA brinjal or aubergine). Capsicum, which includes all the chili peppers as well as bell or sweet peppers, originated in the Americas but is now grown and eaten around the world. The global spread of tomatoes and chili peppers were benign side effects of the ravages of European colonialism. As the Bard said, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

photo 3

It’s hard to imagine my diet without onions, garlic, and chilies in it. Chopped green chilies in a morning omelette or on a piece of buttered toast with Marmite; the delicious aroma of frying onions; deep green kale fried in olive oil and (a lot of) garlic: all these contribute in no small part to my health, happiness, and well-being, and to my zest for life. I offer humble and sincere thanks to them, and to all those who nurture and cultivate them.




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  1. What beautiful photos. I am salivating here! I loved the idea of a glass onion ornament to adorn a Christmas tree too.

    • Thank you, E. Yes, this post was all about the pictures. You can get those glass onions–nice, aren’t they? Some people in India don’t eat onions—they would be hard for me to give up. Chilies, probably even harder. Happy New Year!

  2. Oh my, Josna, you’ve done it again! A unique take on being mindful and appreciative of what gives us sustenance and health; all while calling out the visual beauty of these plants. I have always loved rolling the Latin name across my tongue ; they are poetry to my ears.

    Thank you for piquing renewed interest in the beauty of our botanical. What a rich world we share.

    • Thank you, Sammy. Yes, it’s good to remember that these, too, are our families and that we share the world with them. I enjoy intoning those Latin botanical names, though I’m also fond of their common names. The common names of flowers and medicinal herbs are particularly lovely. And I reminded myself while writing this that it was typically arrogant of us humans to presume to categorize, classify, and name everyone and everything as we have done. Happy New Year!

  3. I wish I had the glass onion and a string of those peppers. I used to string mine up when I had a garden. Miss that. love the garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes too.

    • Yes, I love having a string of onions, garlic, or dried peppers hanging in the kitchen through the winter, though for me too it’s been a long while. One year we even sliced and dried tomatoes, which were a real treat. And yes, I found the picture of that ornament online but think it’s very pretty.

  4. […] 294. Without Whom (G) […]

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