Jan 272018
 

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an international memorial day commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, 9,000 homosexual men, as well as thousands of Slavs, dissidents, and intellectuals by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1 November 2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on 24 January 2005 during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust. The date was chosen because on 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.

Prior to the 60/7 resolution, there had been national days of commemoration, such as Germany’s Tag des Gedenkens an die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (The Day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism), established in a proclamation issued by Federal President Roman Herzog on 3 January 1996; and the Holocaust Memorial Day observed every 27th January since 2001 in the UK.

Resolution 60/7 establishing 27th January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day urges every member nation of the U.N. to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, and encourages the development of educational programs about Holocaust history to help prevent future acts of genocide. It rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an event, and condemns all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief. It also calls for actively preserving the Holocaust sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labor camps and prisons, as well as for establishing a U.N. program of outreach and mobilization of society for Holocaust remembrance and education.

Resolution 60/7 and the International Holocaust Day was an initiative of the State of Israel. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel, Silvan Shalom, was the head of the delegation of Israel to the United Nations.

The essence of the text lies in its twofold approach: one that deals with the memory and remembrance of those who were massacred during the Holocaust, and the other with educating future generations of its horrors.

The International Day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is thus a day on which we must reassert our commitment to human rights. […]

We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world. And we must do our utmost so that all peoples may enjoy the protection and rights for which the United Nations stands.

The UK goes one step further on this date in commemorating not only those who suffered in The Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, but also those in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and elsewhere. The Nazi Holocaust is fading rapidly from active memory. There are few survivors and they are all aged. Therefore, it is more important than ever to keep the lessons learned alive to make the best effort to prevent future genocides. I live in Phnom Penh where the genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge is still active in memory, and the effects were devastating on the country. The Khmer Rouge murdered 25% of the population, based largely on ethnicity, but they also massacred monks, dissidents, and intellectuals (meaning, anyone with a university education).

The murder of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust is prominent in commemoration events, as it should be. Jews were the main target of the Nazis, and the number murdered far outweighs any other group. That said, I would like to take a moment to remember the Gypsies (Roma) who were victims of the Nazis. Numbers vary depending on what you count as a “Gypsy,” but a figure commonly agreed upon is 600,000.

After the war, discrimination against Roma continued throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The Federal Republic of Germany determined that all measures taken against Roma before 1943 were legitimate official measures against persons committing criminal acts, not the result of policy driven by racial prejudice. This decision effectively closed the door to restitution for thousands of Roma victims, who had been incarcerated, forcibly sterilized, and deported out of Germany for no specific crime. The postwar Bavarian criminal police took over the research files of the Nazi regime, including the registry of Roma who had resided in the Greater German Reich.

It was not until late 1979 that the West German Federal Parliament identified the Nazi persecution of Roma as being racially motivated, creating eligibility for most Roma to apply for compensation for their suffering and loss under the Nazi regime. By this time, many of those who became eligible had already died.

There is now a memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism in Berlin, dedicated to the memory of the Gypsies murdered in the Porajmos (a Roma word for the Holocaust). It was designed by Dani Karavan and was officially opened on 24 October 2012 by German chancellor Angela Merkel in the presence of president Joachim Gauck. The memorial is on Simsonweg in the Tiergarten in Berlin, south of the Reichstag and near the Brandenburg Gate.

The memorial was designed by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan, and consists of a dark, circular pool of water at the center of which is a triangular stone. The triangular shape of the stone is in reference to the brown triangular badges that had to be worn by concentration camp prisoners of Roma descent. The stone is retractable and a fresh flower is placed upon it daily. In bronze letters around the edge of the pool is the poem ‘Auschwitz’ by Roma poet Santino Spinelli, although the monument commemorates all Roma and Sinti murdered during the Porajmos:

    Gaunt face
    dead eyes
    cold lips
    quiet
    a broken heart
    out of breath
    without words
    no tears

Information boards surround the memorial and provide a chronology of the genocide of the Sinti and Roma.

The following is one of a series of recipes provided by English Roma that can be found on this site which commemorates the Roma victims of the Holocaust — https://hmd.org.uk/sites/default/files/nazi_persecution_recipe_card_hmd_2017_final.pdf It is a classic English suet pudding, but was collected from indigenous Roma in England. It is cheap to make, and can be boiled all day on the yog (communal campfire) while people are at work. Potatoes and cabbage were usually added to the water used for steaming the pudding.

Bacon and Onion Pudding

Ingredients

225g plain white flour
100g shredded beef suet
10-16 bacon rashers (smoked or unsmoked)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 beef stock cube
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Mix the suet and flour together with around 150 to 200ml water to form a suet pastry. Add the

water gradually to get the right consistency.

Take the suet pastry dough and roll it out quite thinly on a floured surface into a rough rectangular or oval shape. It should be around quarter of an inch thick. Any thicker and it will become to wet and doughy when it is steamed. The pastry expands in the steaming process.

Trim any excess fat from the bacon and place slices on the rolled out pastry. Sprinkle the chopped onions on top, ensuring an even coverage. Sprinkle with the crumbled stock cube and add salt and pepper to taste. Carefully roll the pastry up, as you would when making a Swiss roll. Make sure you have enough pastry at the ends to seal the roll, crimping the edges to ensure it stays together.

Wrap the pudding in foil or a new clean muslin or tea towel. Make sure you seal it well to prevent steam or water getting in when cooking.

Place the pudding in a steamer and steam for two and a half hours. Alternatively, boil it in a large pan of water. Make sure to keep an eye on the water level and top up as needed.

Carefully lift the pudding out of the pan and unwrap. Slice into individual portions and serve with cabbage and potatoes.

 

May 202017
 

Today is the birthday (1799) of legendary French author Honoré de Balzac.  His father, born Bernard-François Balssa, was one of eleven children from an artisan family in Tarn, a region in the south of France. In 1760 he set off for Paris with only a Louis coin in his pocket, intent on improving his social standing; by 1776 he had become Secretary to the King’s Council and a Freemason (he had also changed his name to the more noble sounding “Balzac,” his son later adding—without official recognition—the nobiliary particle: “de”). After the Reign of Terror (1793–94), François Balzac was sent to Tours to coordinate supplies for the Army. Balzac’s mother, born Anne-Charlotte-Laure Sallambier, came from a family of haberdashers in Paris. Her family’s wealth was a considerable factor in the match: she was 18 at the time of the wedding, and François Balzac, 50

Honoré (named after Saint-Honoré of Amiens http://www.bookofdaystales.com/st-honore-of-amiens/ ) was the second child born to the Balzacs. Exactly one year before, Louis-Daniel had been born, but he lived for only a month. As an infant Balzac was sent to a wet-nurse; the following year he was joined by his sister Laure and they spent four years away from home. When the Balzac children returned home, they were kept at a distance from their parents. At age 10 Balzac was sent to the Oratorian grammar school in Vendôme, where he studied for 7 years. His father intentionally gave him little spending money to try to instill in him a sense of a hardscrabble upbringing but it primarily served to make him the object of ridicule among his much wealthier schoolmates.

Balzac had difficulty adapting to the rote style of learning at the school. As a result, he was frequently sent to the “alcove”, a punishment cell reserved for disobedient students. (The janitor at the school, when asked later if he remembered Honoré, replied: “Remember M. Balzac? I should think I do! I had the honour of escorting him to the dungeon more than a hundred times!”) His time alone, however, gave Balzac the opportunity to read voraciously.

Like Dickens (sometimes called the “English Balzac”), Balzac used scenes of his boyhood in his writing, especially La Comédie Humaine. His time at Vendôme is reflected in Louis Lambert, his 1832 novel about a young boy studying at an Oratorian grammar school at Vendôme. The narrator says : “He devoured books of every kind, feeding indiscriminately on religious works, history and literature, philosophy and physics. He had told me that he found indescribable delight in reading dictionaries for lack of other books.”

Balzac often fell ill, finally causing the headmaster to contact his family with news of a “sort of a coma.” In 1814 the Balzac family moved to Paris, and Honoré was sent to private tutors and schools for the next two and a half years. This was an unhappy time in his life, during which he attempted suicide on a bridge over the Loire River. In 1816 Balzac entered the Sorbonne, where he studied under three famous teachers: François Guizot, who later became Prime Minister, Abel-François Villemain, a recent arrival from the Collège Charlemagne who lectured on French and classical literature, and, his favorite, Victor Cousin, who strongly encouraged independent thinking.

After the Sorbonne Balzac was persuaded by his father to follow him into the Law. For three years he trained and worked at the office of Victor Passez, a family friend. During this time Balzac began to delve the vagaries of human behavior. In Le Notaire (1840), he wrote that a young person in the legal profession sees “the oily wheels of every fortune, the hideous wrangling of heirs over corpses not yet cold, the human heart grappling with the Penal Code.”

In 1819 Passez offered to make Balzac his successor, but he had had enough of the Law. He despaired of being “a clerk, a machine, a riding-school hack, eating and drinking and sleeping at fixed hours. I should be like everyone else. And that’s what they call living, that life at the grindstone, doing the same thing over and over again…. I am hungry and nothing is offered to appease my appetite.” In consequence he determined to become a writer.

Balzac’s work habits are legendary, he wrote from 1 am to 8 am every night and sometimes even longer. Balzac could write very rapidly; some of his novels, written with a quill, were composed at about thirty words per minute. His preferred method was to eat a light meal at 5 or 6 in the afternoon, then sleep until midnight. He then rose and wrote for many hours, drinking innumerable cups of strong black coffee. He would often work for 15 hours or more at a stretch, and claimed to have once worked for 48 hours with only 3 hours of rest in the middle.

Balzac revised obsessively, covering printer’s proofs with changes and additions to be reset. He sometimes repeated this process during the publication of a book, causing significant expense both for himself and the publisher. As a result, the finished product quite often was different from the original text.

Balzac died in Paris in 1850, 5 months after marrying Ewelina Hańska, widow of count Hańska, in Russia.  He had never enjoyed good health, but the journey to Russia to finalize his courtship with Ewelina (who was also being courted by Franz Lizst), and his persistent overeating, along with his generally poor personal habits, weakened his system fatally. He showed all the symptoms of heart failure in his final year.

The day he died he had been visited by Victor Hugo, who later served as a pallbearer and eulogist. Balzac is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. At his memorial service, Victor Hugo said, “Today we have people in black because of the death of the man of talent; a nation in mourning for a man of genius.” The funeral was attended by the literary elite of Paris”, including Frédérick Lemaître, Gustave Courbet, Dumas père and Dumas fils,[84] as well as representatives of the Légion d’honneur and other dignitaries. Later, Auguste Rodin created the Monument à Balzac in his honor, and featured him in several smaller busts.

Here’s a few of my favorite quotes:

Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.

First love is a kind of vaccination which saves a man from catching the complaint a second time.

Life is simply what our feelings do to us.

If you mean to cook your dinner, you must expect to soil your hands; the real art is in getting them clean again.

Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane.

The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin.

And he, like many jaded people, had few pleasures left in life save good food and drink.

Cruelty and fear shake hands together. An unfulfilled vocation drains the color from a man’s entire existence.

Hatred is the vice of narrow souls; they feed it with all their littleness, and make it the pretext of base tyrannies.

After Balzac had closeted himself away for lengthy creative bursts, drinking coffee and eating only fruit and eggs, he would take a break and wolf down vast quantities of food. Once he asked his publisher, Monsieur Werdet, to lunch between writing bouts. According to the food historian Giles MacDonagh, he ate “a hundred Ostend oysters, 12 Pre-Sale mutton cutlets, a duckling with turnips, a brace of roast partridges, a sole Normand, without counting hors d’oeuvres, entremets, fruits etc.”

Balzac sometimes gave dinner parties with a theme. Once he served a meal of nothing but onions: onion soup, his favorite onion puree, onion juice, onion fritters and onions with truffles. His idea, apparently, was to showcase the purgative properties of the vegetable. It worked. All his guests got sick. Maybe if you just make French onion soup you can avoid this fate. I’ve been making classic French onion soup since I was a novice cook, which, if made well, is superb. But you must get  it right. It takes time and patience. This is my recipe from memory which I have played with over the years. It makes about 8 servings, so I don’t make it very often these days. You really shouldn’t make small quantities.

French Onion Soup

Peel 10 sweet white onions, halve them, and finely slice them. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy Dutch oven, over low heat and layer in the onion slices sprinkling salt between each layer. Let the onions sweat down, undisturbed for 15 to 20 minutes.  After that, stir the onions occasionally until they take on a dark, even, mahogany color. This is the absolutely critical step, and requires patience and attentiveness. You don’t want any of the onions to burn but they must be dark brown. Eventually the onions will reduce to about 2 cups. Ignore cookbooks that say you can brown the onions in 10 minutes or so. This is complete nonsense. Slowly cooked onions take an hour (sometimes longer) to reach this stage.

Add a cup (or more) of dry white wine to cover the onions and turn the heat to high. Reduce the wine to a syrup, then add 5 cups of beef consommé. See the HINTS tab for my recipes. You want this consommé to be of the highest quality. Also add a cup of good quality farm apple cider, and a bouquet garni (your choice of herbs; I use thyme, parsley, marjoram, and bay leaf). Simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

Reheat the soup next day when ready to serve.

Heat the broiler. Cut day old baguette slices into rounds to fit the  mouths of oven-safe soup crocks. Very lightly toast the bread under the broiler on one side only.

Add a little cognac to the soup, and ladle it into the crocks, leaving space for the bread. Place the bread, toasted side down, on top of the soup and spread it with grated Gruyère. Place the crocks under the broiler and broil until the cheese is bubbly and toasted.

Oct 052013
 

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World Teachers’ Day, held annually on October 5th since 1994, commemorates teachers and teachers’ organizations worldwide. Its aim is to mobilize support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers. This year’s slogan, “A Call for Teachers” focuses on the critical shortage of qualified teachers worldwide.

This celebration has a special resonance for me. From the age of 5 until I retired 3 years ago, not a year passed when I was not either a student or a teacher (sometimes both). I have been through all levels of education from kindergarten to Ph.D., and I have taught students from primary grades to graduate work.  In addition I home schooled my son from 6th to 12th grades.  Furthermore, my father, mother, and elder sister were all teachers, as is my son now.  I think it’s fair to say that I know a little something about teaching. (Incidentally, it’s not a genetic condition!)

Here’s my teacher family:

Forrest006  family017

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I would like to give every reader of this blog a challenge, the same challenge I quite often issued my students over the years, namely, if there is a teacher who changed your life in some way, write, call, email . . . whatever, TODAY and say “thank you.”  I guarantee you have no idea what joy you will bring to that person.  I started doing this myself about 20 years ago when some of my former teachers were getting a bit long in the tooth.  I am glad I did, though, because almost all of them have since passed on.  How else would they have known the profound impact they had on me?

As a small indulgence I am going to take this opportunity to talk a little about five teachers who I remember fondly for one reason or another. This little exercise is mostly to demonstrate what I think good teaching is all about.

Mrs Huggle.  What a great name. (The caretaker of the school was Mr Coalstick – I swear I am not making this up). Mrs Huggle was my first teacher ever, at Roselands Infant school in Eastbourne, on the south coast of England. I don’t remember her terribly well, but I remember the first day vividly. I was dreadfully afraid. My mum took me directly to my classroom where Mrs Huggle sat in splendor.  She was an ample woman, probably my granny’s age.  I really have no idea.  She was definitely not one of the young teachers. She wore a flowing black dress with her hair in a bun – normal 50’s style.  She had a crying child on each knee, but was all smiles as she greeted us.  Around her swirled benign chaos as the newcomers found things to amuse themselves. Mrs Huggle was not fazed in the slightest; she just let it all flow over her. The minute I met her my fears vanished. She welcomed me, gave me a piece of chalk and suggested I draw on the blackboard along with three or four others. My first impression of school was that it was a warm place full of fun, thanks in great part to Mrs Huggle.

Here I am (top left) at Roselands. Start of an illustrious life of cooking:

roselands001

Mrs Murphy. After Roselands my family emigrated to Gawler, South Australia where I was enrolled in Gawler Primary School, something of a Dickensian nightmare in many ways.  My Grade 4 teacher was Mrs Murphy. For reasons I never understood, Grades 4 and 6 at Gawler Primary were segregated into one boys’ and one girls’ class. I can’t imagine that a class of more than thirty 9 year-old Aussie farm boys was a plum assignment, but Mrs Murphy was up to the task. When I was doing my teacher training the golden rule of good teaching was the “3 F’s” – Friendly, Firm, and Fair. Mrs Murphy embodied those principles perfectly and we all loved her for it.  We got Firm, but without the Friendly and Fair in most other grades. From Mrs Murphy we got the whole package. Over 50 years later I can still conjure an image of her smiling face, as well as the not-so-smiling face I invoked on occasion.  I honestly cannot recall a single day in her class I did not enjoy, and I have an excellent memory.

Sixth Former

Sixth Former

John Pearce.  When I was 15 my family returned to England and I was enrolled at Burnham Grammar School (in south Buckinghamshire). In the 4th form (9th grade) I had John Pearce for English. John Pearce was, and is, my all time favorite teacher, and we are still in touch. A simple paragraph cannot begin to summarize my admiration for the man.  Although he had no more than a B.A. he was a scholar, and by the end of his career had several notable publications to his name.  What was so amazing about him was that he introduced us, mere 15 year olds, to current scholarship – work normally studied by postgraduate students.  He taught us, for example, about the composition of acting companies in Shakespeare’s day and how this affected the dramatic structure of the plays.  One critical issue concerned the limited number of actors in the companies (for financial reasons), usually about 8 principles, 4 boys, and 8 apprentices.  Thus, most actors had to play 2, sometimes 3, parts in the same play. As an exercise he had us all cast Hamlet for a Shakespearean company by charting the appearances of every character scene by scene, noting which ones never coincided, and doubling them up for one actor.  I remember him calling my doubling of Claudius and the Ghost “a daring move.” But I remember him most for his drive to make me a better writer with his tireless, in-depth critiques. I rarely received an alpha for my work (he used Greek letters for grades), and I never attained the ultimate prize – “alpha distinction” (a large alpha with “D” inscribed inside).  He ALWAYS pushed me to do better. Even today when I write emails to him I quadruple check all punctuation, spelling, phrasing, and, especially, word choice.

Here I am as Orsino in the school’s rendition of Twelfth Night.  In those days we did a Shakespeare every year.

12th001

Leslie Ashford.  Leslie Ashford was the headmaster of Burnham Grammar School and had studied history at Cambridge University. He taught me modern English history in the fifth form.  His very first lesson will live with me forever.  We had studied the Industrial Revolution the year below and so he began by seeing what we had learnt. Opening question “What were the causes of the Industrial Revolution in Britain?” We all thought this was an easy one; it was a favorite question in one form or another on the public exam we had to sit that year.  We had all memorized lists of “causes” such as “abundance of coal and iron deposits,” “wave of inventors” (my current favorite for sheer stupidity), “increase in cheap labor force,” and so forth.  We all put our hands up, eager to show we knew the answers, but he shot each answer down. “Hadn’t the coal and iron always been there?” “Aren’t there smart people in every generation?” “Did the cheap labor force magically appear?”  I trace my lifelong professional interest in historical questions to that single class.  He taught me that the only historical question worth asking is “Why?” and that the answers are never simple nor easily found.

Andrew Panton. In the sixth form we had to specialize in three subjects in preparation for university.  I signed on for Latin, Greek, and Modern History. My history master was Andrew Panton, newly graduated from Oxford – a bit wet round the ears as a teacher, but crack up to the minute on the latest research.  When he learnt that I was the only classics student in the school he took it upon himself to offer to tutor me, one-on-one, in Ancient History in his free periods. When I decided to sit the entrance exams for Oxford University he personally coached me after school. He was completely dedicated to my success by teaching me the study habits and critical thinking skills of an undergraduate, and he got no additional compensation from the school for any of the work he did with me.  As a small aside, he married one of my class mates, a slightly flaky girl named Bridget Jones – I swear, I am not making this up.

I have had many other teachers, of course, each teaching me something, if only what NOT to do in the classroom. But these five taught me core values that I have tried to emulate with my students, which I can summarize as “be caring, smart, passionate, critical, dedicated, and respectful – and make them work their tails off.” In return I will end by saying that I have been blessed over the years with exceptional students.  They have made me work my tail off too, and I was a better teacher because of them.

I used to be able to find some excuse to combine my passions and give a cooking lesson in one of my university classes.  This image is from a lesson of mine concerning the making of apple crumble (see http://www.bookofdaystales.com/chameleon-cooking/ ) given to my Anthropological Fieldwork Methods class.  Over the years I taught students how to make cock-a-leekie soup, eggplant parmesan, Javanese soto ayam (my favorite soup of all time), and English pancakes, to name a few.

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I am not going to give you a recipe today.  Instead I am going to teach you some things I have learnt by experiment over the years about the onion family rather like I would tutor you for an upcoming test. This is not an exhaustive list by any means.

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Tío Juan’s Onion Family Tips

1 .The onion family (genus Allium) has many brothers and sisters, many of which are under-used in home cooking. Learn about ALL of them and don’t be afraid to change one for another in a recipe.  My commonest substitution is to use leeks in place of onions. But you can also use caramelized scallions in place of onions in stews.

2. Use chives more often.  They are a perennial that quickly spread and provide years of enjoyment in the garden as well as the kitchen because of their profuse flowers in the border.  I use them most commonly in egg dishes and salads, as well as a soup garnish.  They come in several varieties, including garlic chives and Chinese chives, each with distinctive flavors that enhance soups, stir fries, and salads.  Don’t forget, too, that the flowers are edible.  They make a colorful and delicately pungent addition to a green salad.

3. Onions change flavors dramatically depending on how they are cooked. I tend to distinguish four categories – raw, translucent, amber, and dark. Each imparts a different flavor to a dish. I use a very fine dice of raw onions in soups and stews sometimes, added almost at the last minute. You will be amazed at how much this brightens up the flavors.  A SE Asian favorite is to deep fry onion threads until they are dark and crisp. Drained and dried of excess oil they will keep in an airtight container for weeks.  They are marvelous sprinkled over rice or curries.

4. Shallots tend often to be forgotten, perhaps because many cooks do not know what they are or because they are expensive. They look like small, brown-skinned onions shaped much like big garlic cloves.  To my mind their best uses are raw, finely chopped in salads, or deep fried in thin slices to a crisp golden and used as a garnish for beef stews.

5. Use leeks more. Try buttered leeks as a bed for fish. Slice both the green and white parts thinly on the diagonal. Melt a generous amount of butter in a heavy skillet and cook the leeks on a very slow flame for 15 to 20 minutes.  Plain poached leeks, cut into big rounds, make an excellent accompaniment for any meat dish. Put a few, cut into 4” lengths (white part), into the roasting pan along with whatever else you are roasting. Onions are great roasted this way too. A whole head of garlic roasted makes a delicious spread for toasted bread.

6. All of the onion family (with the exception of leeks) are dead easy to grow.  Even if all you have is a sunny balcony, pot up some chives at the very least.  If you have a garden plot always devote a patch to onions.  They can be eaten at all stages from spring onions to full matured bulbs.  Garden onions cannot be rivaled in cooking.