SIMPLY SOMETHING FOR MAY
A Vidalia Onion Patch
By Cappy Hall Rearick
For any Georgian worth his salted peanuts, the merry month of May means one thing: a new crop of Vidalia Onions. Doling out last season's leftovers that hang in a knotted-up pair of pantyhose in the garage becomes yesterday’s news. Settle for Texas imports? Not gonna happen. This is the time of year when the often overlooked great state of Georgia moves front and center to become Old Glory's Star of the Month.
At my house, when that sweetest of the sweet, oval-shaped bulb comes to call it's almost like a national holiday. Life as we normally know it comes to a screeching halt while Babe pays tribute to the forty-pound box of onions taking up space in my pantry.
As soon as the truck rolls into town from Vidalia, Babe is there to greet it. A proud picture of a Pennsylvania Yankee turned Georgian, his mission is to be the first person on St. Simons Island to bite into the onion that puts Georgia on everybody's mind. Standing at attention next to the produce truck, he could not look more Southern if he wore a Robert E. Lee hand-me-down uniform.
As soon as Babe, aka Onion Man, crunches into that first Vidalia of the year, it is as close to a religious experience as a grown man can have while chomping on onions. His white bread sandwiches are stacked with thick slices of Vidalias and slathered with way too much Dukes Mayo. When he takes that first bite, he makes the kind of noises more appropriately heard in the X-rated section of Blockbusters.
"Why don't you simply describe how it tastes using words, Babe," I suggest. "Those sounds of yours are making me blush."
He closes his eyes and allows his head to move from side to side ever so slightly. I pay close attention so as not to miss the only bodily movement he makes before he drifts off to Zen City.
I love to cook, but while Babe is enjoying his certifiable craziness, he allows onions to claim squatter's rights to my kitchen, and I'm almost afraid to go in there. The other day while he and an onion sandwich were tripping down the yellow brick road, I sneaked in and opened the pantry door looking for peanut butter. What I saw nearly gave me the vapors.
"Babe, this onion obsession of yours has to stop. You didn't just jump over the edge, you have pole vaulted into overkill. I'm looking at a stockpile of Vidalia mustard and more green and yellow Vidalia pickles than we'll ever eat. I ask you, do we really need six varieties of Vidalia Onion catsup?"
I counted twelve bottles of Vidalia Onion salad dressing before the thought of intervention became more than just a possibility.
"You need help, Babe. It is time for you to bite the bullet instead of the onion.”
“What are you talking about, he asked.
“Get on the patch," I told him.
His eyelids flickered as he slowly turned to meet my gaze. He was back from Oz and appeared to be conscious. The hand holding an obscenely thick onion sandwich, moved from his mouth. His head tilted slightly in my direction. I leaned in closer so as not to miss it when he agreed to my suggestion. When he opened his mouth, three days of stored up onion breath smacked my kisser like thrust from a B-2 Stealth Bomber.
Only then did I fully realize what his obscene sounds had been all about. It wasn't the real Babe moaning with pleasure; it was only his mouth protesting too many onions.
"That particular Vidalia Onion sandwich you're eating," I said while backing out of range of his toxic breath, "has been hiding in Aunt Piddy Pat's root cellar since Sherman lit up Atlanta."
With a raffish grin on his face, he gave me a mock salute before crunching down on another bite. Grinning with his mouth crammed full, he said, "I have one thing to say about that, Miz Scarlett."
"Well, fiddily-dee, Mr. Rhett. Do tell."
He held up the sandwich. "Vidalia breath is a Southern secret weapon to keep the Yankee carpetbaggers from returning. So hang on to your Confederate dollars, my ageless Southern Belle, 'cause the South's gonna rise again."