Why Do Jews Love Raw Onions?

I may be generalizing here, but many of the Jews that I know (especially the ones in my immediately family) love to eat raw onions. They don’t eat them plain–they usually cut them into their salads or chicken dishes, but if gum hadn’t ever been invented I’d probably keep a distance of at least 15 feet from my mother and grandmother.

Here, as piece-of-evidence number one, is a giant bowl of raw onions featured prominently at the buffet at my grandmother’s retirement community. (For a more thorough tour, check out the funny food film “What Retired Folks Eat”):

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The majority of folks at my grandmother’s retirement community are Jewish. This bowl is featured prominently and is filled with raw onions. Coincidence? We think not.

Here are some hypotheses:

(1) Jews spent the large bulk of their history as nomads. Onions, perhaps, are easily plantable and grow quick? I’m not a farmer so I may very well be wrong.

(2) Jews have suffered bitterly at the hands of history but maintain a sturdy disposition. Onions are bitter but also slightly sweet and almost always sturdy.

(3) Back to the nomad thing: onions are protected with layers and layers of skin, good, maybe, for throwing into your satchel as you flee Crusaders and Inquisitioners, among others.

And that, my friends, ends my theory about raw onions and Jews.

10 comments

  1. How about “because they are just so darned yummy and good for you? ;-D Have you tried Rose De Roscoff onions (French Pink Onions)? They are especially yummy and mild, excellent on my bagel and lox.

  2. To continue the grammatical criticism, majority is singular and, as such, should take a singular verb. The correct version would be, “The majority of folks at my grandmother’s retirement community is Jewish.” (I like raw onions too, but I am, unfortunately, Christian. But sometimes pantheistic and, every once in a while, Hindu.)

  3. I think this is my first comment, so… I love your blog, Adam!

    I was thinking about this topic, in fact, the other day, although about garlic. The best explanation I can think of is that garlic and onions are both dirt-cheap and plentiful. This immediately explains why I put onions and garlic in everything I cook, and my father and so on through our family history.

    If you sit down and think about it, with the exception of lox, most typically Jewish food is typically Jewish food ’cause it’s cheap. Bagels? Brisket? And, of course, onions.

  4. Hey, I’m Jewish, and I don’t like raw onions, although I like cooked ones in basically any form. And “the majority of folks are” is correct; “the majority of folks is” is wrong. Consider “a bunch of us are going out tonight” vs “a bunch of us is going out”. Collective nouns can be singular or plural depending on what they’re collecting. “A bunch of chocolate is sitting on the table.” Mmmmm.

  5. If the subject in question were “all” or “none,” the a prepositional phrase could modify the verb, but majority is always singular. And with collective nouns, the difference is in whether or not the individuals involved in the collection noun are acting as a group or as individuals. Not whether or not the sentence sounds correct.

  6. Actually (with an implied obnoxious “hem-hem!”), with these troublesome nouns, quite a bit seems to depend on whether you are speaking American English or Pretty-Much-Everywhere-Else English.

    I bow to the alt.usage.english FAQ for one of the more succinct takes on the problem: http://alt-usage-english.org/groupnames.html

    (Alas, my Deluxe Transitive Vampire is packed right now.)

    As with splitting infinitives and other flame wars (see http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/nonerrors.html for likely hot topics), this issue is unlikely to be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction, especially as so many consider it already settled. :)

    [Raw onions are good. Can I get a social membership into Judaism?]

  7. Why do Jews like onions? They don’t. At least not these Jews. I like them baked, fried, sauteed, boiled, whatever – but NEVER NEVER raw. Ditto for scallions, shallots, chives, etc.

    My wife, on this occasion, agrees with me.

  8. My family members and friends have been pondering why do Jews like brisket? Any good answers to this discussion are welcomed.

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