Red Purple Onions

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A few days ago, I bought a bundle of red onions – from a refugee.

The woman had the strong personality of a survivor.   She waved over the purple fruits for $2 both proudly – and indignately – at the same time as if the seemingly privileged me would be stupid not to.

Her scruitinous eyes looked me up and down carefully as I counted down the change I thought I might have left in my purse.  She clearly didn’t have x-ray vision.

There is just something about color that makes our fruits and vegetables more wonderful, and breaks the monotony of mass-production -which kills artistry and nutrition both – at about the same level.

Life is healthy – when it’s colorful.  And so our our plates.

That said, I have to point out for our rainbow gardening project in the village – that –

– red onions – so help me God – are purple.

For all necesary photography purposes – for all purposes of filling in that wonderful spectrum – red onions are violet, should the v-word be your preference.

We were able to find red onions – that are purple –

— at a store near the capital city of the nation of our village earlier this year.

Check Out This Free Italian Sausage and Veggie Bowl Recipe (With Roasted Red Onions) | Gimme Some Oven

If anyone wondered why red was purple – and purple red — they didn’t ask.

For those who refer to a ‘red’ onion – without even acknowledging the obviousness of the more complicated shades – they didn’t know.  They were too used to the vocabulary to challenge the present vision of truth.

And yet, even though you know that for anyone who refers to a red onion with wide and honest eyes and clear hearts who did know the difference – it would be because they were so used to people getting it wrong – that they got used to not correcting them.  After all, if they didn’t notice the difference, there are only a few and very special yet far between moments when it would have even made a difference – that don’t always stand out and kiss your cheek until your awareness grows.  

Yet, sometimes – I think we know, without knowing.

I wish that they would have tried

— to plant those purple bulbs earlier.  Those little onions really love that spring weather.

There is a crowd, within a crowd – that does quietly notice the difference.  I like those people – but I do need to ask them why they didn’t speak up sooner.

Like the purple heart in this picture, I would have defended anyone good who upheld that chromatic integrity – of onions and their variations.  In many ways, I was already defending it – without even knowing what it was that I was defending, and also being judged harshly for my insistance on the vocabulary issue – without knowing the deeper meaning of the annoyances that I unintentionally brought to other people. Words were used to describe my hopeful garden project that both made me blush – and also made me worry that if too many peppers were planted that no onion of any color would ever find a home by my tomatoes at all, in the same way that most can’t stand spicy salsa – and I am very guilty of needing that heat on the end of my tongue in order to enjoy so many different meals.  At least, for peppers, I know what they are – and where to get them.  Like a good pepper, spicy red onions have caused me a great deal of worthwhile tears.  Onions have deeper roots, and grow in the dark – and it’s hard to know what’s going on until they finally surface – in one way or another.

It didn’t seem to bother anyone else as much as it did me – that the red onions were purple.  I needed somebody – to say something.  To take me by the hand and assure me that my fine arts education did not get lost underneath the ground in the dark corners of nutritional biology.   Is a purple onion really different from an onion of any other color – when it’s left in the dark?  Isn’t light a requirement for the presence of all-color?

I needed someone to gently reassure me that it was okay to stand on the point that some people just don’t understand that red onions – are actually purple – and that it’s okay.

I’m the kind of person that would go to the grocery store – or market – and look lost in the produce section for hours – because I was looking for a red.  The desire to please would keep me looking through all of the veggies for hours, trying to find a way in my mind to make the wrong shade work – and wondering why it just doesn’t.  If I couldn’t find a red one, I’d spend hours trying to find the ‘reddest’ purple onion.

Until I knew, or at least – believed.  

And then, there was no one to go grocery shopping with and walk through the aisles with – to put any kind of vision together with the better-defined reality.

Together, the children and I decided to re-grow our little red – purple bulbs we bought in the city, this time – I was knowing – and watching them for their reactions of our new garden addition.  They’ve never noticed outloud, but they all have their own layers.

It is so hard to share a language – without points of reference.

Throughout history, color theory has been an under-canvassed course.  Color vocabulary was never as defined as it is today – in a large part, thanks to our wonderful childhood boxes of Crayolas – like the big one I was jealous that others seemed to have in elementary school.

In a search online – trying to figure out why anybody would call a purple onion red, I ran across some old poetic references

– that violets are blue and white grapes are green…that one of my favorite characters, Anne of Green Gables had hair – red as carrots.  

As much as I loved orphan stories as a little girl, I didn’t have any best friends to share them with.

So why would someone choose a red onion, a purple onion, any color of onion which is brighter than the white norm, and try to plant this root in a developing nation – or anywhere?

It must be because they cherish art, because they want to hold everything that’s beautiful and layered close – because they realize that there is something more than a monochromatic purpose in our lives – and each deviation from the norm presents the opportunity for creativity – and the chance to live for a higher spiritual awareness and purpose.

Color may make our lives more challenging – but as long as they are present – life is always more beautiful, more healthy, and more worth living.

Author: Ada Nicole

A human rights worker in developing nations.