Two or three afternoons a week, at four or five o’clock, Great-Aunt Helen would announce to her friends over the bridge table ,”Got to run home quickly and put the onion on!” This was a subterfuge she had used for some 45 years to mislead her husband that his dinner was on the way! (The odor of frying onions is irrisistible to a hungry man.)
She lived in a large old Victorian house which had been built by my Great Grandfather in the 19th century. My husband and I rented the third floor attic from her for three years for the exhorbitant amount of $35 per month when we first married 65 years ago.
Aunt Helen was a larger than life individual with strong opinions, but a grand sense of fun. Her colorful conversation was scattered with outrageous observations, many of which dealt with her painful feet. She wore old-fashioned “sensible” shoes, except on bridge days, when she put on her one pair of dress-up shoes, which she referred to as her “sitting shoes”. She remained a farm girl who happened to live in the city.
Upon arriving home from an afternoon of bridge, and before removing her hat, girdle or dress-up shoes, she quickly chopped up an onion and put it on the stove to work its odiferous magic.
Uncle Fred worked in San Francisco and had taken the ferry to and from Alameda each day for 40 years. Arriving home at precisely 5:30 every day and entering by the front door, at approximately the same time as Aunt Helen was coming in by the rear door, he was able to smell the delicious and intoxicating odor of onions cooking, and contentedly settled his portly little body into his large comfy chair to read the evening paper.
Misleading, yes, but comforting to a weary husband after a hard day’s work. Today’s version might be a welcoming glass of wine rather than an onion, and possibly today’s husband might even chop the onion!
Simpicity at its best!