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Columns : Chew On This! - Maurisa Glinton Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

It’s enough to make you cry...Literally!
By Maurisa Glinton
Feb 11, 2011 - 1:48:34 PM

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There are a few items that can always be found in my kitchen; things that I seriously don’t think that I can live without. They are simple items, but important ones none the less.  If I had to name my top five they would be Garlic, Unsalted butter, Olive oil, Sea Salt and Onions.  Simple yet necessary! I put them in everything that I cook.  And when it comes to Onions I usually have a variety of them on hand; scallions, red onions, shallots, yellow onions, Spanish Onions, I usually have at least three varieties on hand. Whether sautéed, grilled, or caramelized, these tasty bulbs usually manage to find a place in every recipe I cook up.

What can I say…? I LOVE ONIONS!

My mother, knowing my love for onions, forwarded me an email about them that I found both incredibly interesting and wildly informative. The email started off with a very interesting story about the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 (1917- 1920), that killed some 50 -100 million people worldwide (at the time that was about 3% of the world’s population-- Crazy!) Anyway, the story goes that there was a Doctor that visited many farmers to see if he could help them combat this flu, as many of the farmers and their families had contracted it and many had died. Well apparently the doctor came upon this one farmer his family and everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the farmer was doing that was different, the wife replied that she had placed an unpeeled onion in a dish in the rooms of the home. The doctor was obviously baffled and asked for one of the onions test. When he tested it under his microscope, the onion was riddled with flu virus. It had absorbed the bacteria and kept the family healthy.

The author of the email passed this story onto one of his/ her friends who replied the following:

 "Thanks for the reminder. I don't know about the farmer’s story, but I do remember that I contracted pneumonia and, needless to say, I was very ill. I came across an article that said to cut both ends off an onion, put one end on a fork and then place the forked end into an empty jar, placing the jar next to the sick patient at night. It said the onion would be black in the morning from the germs. Sure enough, it happened just like that… the onion was a mess and I began to feel better. Another thing I read in the article was that onions and garlic placed around the room saved many from the black plague years ago. They have powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties.”

Ok so you can only imagine that I was more than eager to try this out! I couldn’t wait for someone to be sick or to have some symptoms coming on so I could start my little experiment. Well as I’m sure most of you know the last two weeks or so have been riddled with uncomfortable sneezes in elevators, nasty coughs across restaurants and sniffling snorting cashiers that make you want to say, “Uh, that’s ok, keep the change!” So alas when my boyfriend came down with a bout of the flu, caught tactfully from my next door neighbour, I was on it! I cut my onions, placed them on forks in old spaghetti sauce jars and placed them next to his bed in the bathroom in the kitchen and living room, and then I waited! Sure enough the next morning the onions had started to soften and were collecting what seemed like black mould in the layers. Bingo! And within the next few days they got more and more riddled and my boyfriend got better! Seriously within, 3 days he was over it, no antibiotics! Now who knows what other factors may have played a role but hey, for the price of some onions, it made me a believer, it sure didn’t hurt!

Oh and on another note—something to consider, if onions are so receptive of these bacteria then they are generally thusly receptive to all kinds! Onions are a huge magnet for bacteria, especially uncooked onions. You should never plan to keep a portion of a sliced onion, not even safe if you put it in a zip-lock bag and put it in your refrigerator. It's already contaminated enough just by being cut open and exposed to the air for a while and can be a real danger to you (and be especially wary of onions that you meet out at salad bars etc). If you take the leftover onion and cook it to death you’ll probably be ok, but if you slice that leftover onion and put it on a salad or sandwich, you’re taking a huge risk.

You know how we always assume it’s the Potato salad at the picnic that gets us sick or the Tuna or the Pasta salad because it had mayo and was probably left out too long? Guess what-- unh -unh! In truth commercially made Mayo is completely safe. Technically it doesn’t even need to be refrigerated. The pH in mayonnaise is set at an environmental point that bacteria could not survive in (assuming it isn’t introduced by another source i.e. sticking a knife in the jar that you used to cut an old onion).  When food poisoning is reported, the first thing that an inspector checks for is the last time the victim ate onions and where those onions came from (in the potato salad?). Unless it’s homemade Mayo, you don’t have to worry about that being what spoils when left outs, it's the onions and/or the potatoes (you’ve seen potatoes turn black right? Exactly!) Both the onions and the moist potatoes provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to grow, much faster than any commercial mayo will take to even begin breaking down. Onions can become highly poisonous even if just left overnight and create toxic bacteria which may cause adverse stomach infections because of excess bile secretions and even food poisoning.

For what it’s worth the author of the email was a chemist, and I see enough credibility in that to just play it safe. As I professed, I love onions but there is nothing wrong with being cautious. Think about that the next time you buy the HUGE onions. If you’re not going to use it all at once use a smaller one. Also things like salad, if you like onion in your salad leave it on the side thus any leftovers can be eaten without worry. Oh, and for all you dog lovers out there, dogs should never eat onions, their stomachs simply cannot metabolize them. I urge you to take caution of old onions. I know you’re probably saying 'oh I’ve been doing it for years and nothing has ever happened', but think about that the next time you have that indigestion that we so quickly chalk up to that handy Bahamian diagnosis… GAS!

About the author: Maurisa Glinton is a Grand Bahamian native. She is an Entrepreneur, Chef and Writer. She has a B.A. in Psychology and Writing, as well as Diplomas in Culinary Arts and Culinary Management. She is a Festival Noel winner and the Head Chef/ Owner of Social Butterfly Catering Services . Evidence of her passion for food and its surrounding culture comes across clearly in her cooking and her writing. Maurisa is also the writer of her own Food Blog, Chez Mo Truth . Maurisa currently resides in Nassau and can be reached at chezmotruth@gmail.com . You can also follow her on Twitter as @ChezMoTruth .

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Chew On This! - Maurisa Glinton
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