|photo by ana traina|
According to Alexandre Dumas, in his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine (1873), the French province of Brittany was famous for growing onions. In some years, one town, Roscoff, would send thirty or forty ships laden with onions to England. An enterprising townie asked a visiting Englishman to translate for him the phrase “the English onion is not good”. Three days later the Frenchman left for London with a sloop laden with onions. Upon arrival, he headed straight to the busiest market and displayed a placard on which was written in big letters: THE ENGLISH ONION IS NOT GOOD. Underneath, he placed a little barrow full of French onions. After a fight with an Englishman to gain the right to sell his French onions, Londoners bought all of his onions that day. From that time even until the 1970’s, French onion-sellers from Brittany would bicycle around English towns peddling their wares.
Many older Exonians have memories of "Onion Johnnies" in Exeter, as late as the 1960's.
Pickling vinegar (malt vinegar)
225g Sea Salt (not table salt)
2.8 liters/ 4 pints Water
Pickling spices. You can either just buy ready-selected pickling spices or you can put together a teaspoon each of mace, cinnamon, allspice berries, black peppercorns and 4 cloves and 1 chili.