When he was a kid, my father was famous in our family for his contempt for onions. In fact, my grandmother went to extraordinary lengths to attempt to hide onions in her cooking, because she knew if he saw even the smallest sliver of the offending white bulb, that would be the end of the meal.
But she couldn’t possibly have cooked most traditional foods without the onion. It is nearly ubiquitous in the food world: mirepoix, sofrito, the holy trinity, suppengrün, w?oszczyzna, refogado. These are all names of traditional cooking bases and all contain the pungent sweetness of the onion along with a few other ingredients like peppers, celery or carrots.
But did you know that the onion is actually a cousin of the lilies we grow in our gardens? And not onions alone, but onions, garlic, scallions and shallots all descend from the same plant family. In fact, edible flowers enjoyed a certain popularity recently and included some types of straight, garden-variety lilies.
Don’t think you should go out and start munching on the lilies at Wegmans, however: many of the varieties we enjoy as garden flowers are actually slightly poisonous. They won’t kill you, but they’ll ruin your evening.
Lilies like most flowers originate in China and their use in cooking has ancient roots across Eurasia. They are even featured on some Egyptian monuments.
And your Thanksgiving meal will not be complete without these tasty bulbs, either. A cursory Google search reveals dozens of preparations, including cassaroles, caramelized and (yuck) creamed onions for your delectation. Personally, I’ll be happy with a few in the stuffing, but I guess that’s Thanksgiving for you: everybody’s got their own traditions.