Nine Months More

Do you start with onions?

Mindlessly one Monday morning I found myself walking into the pantry, reaching down to the tub of brown onions. I pulled one out and walked back into the kitchen. With even less thought, I reached for the chopping board, then the knife. Within moments, the brown onion had been peeled, peelings thrown into the bin, diced and ready to be thrown into the waiting saucepan. I took five more steps to the fridge, pulled out the jar of minced garlic and added a huge teaspoon to the saucepan. Dinner had started. Yet, I didn’t even know what I was cooking.

You see, it always starts with a brown onion and a dash of garlic. As a little girl, I watched my mother and my grandmother religiously prepare meals for the family – always starting with a brown onion and a dash of garlic. It almost didn’t matter what they ended up cooking. The meal always started that way.

So here I was. In my own kitchen. Doing the same thing.

I sat and thought for a moment. The onion and garlic were browning ever so slowly in the saucepan. I don’t like onion. Actually, I really don’t like onion. I’m not meticulous enough to chop my brown onion finely. Instead I end up with chunks of brown onion throughout every meal. I don’t even remember what I ended up cooking that night.

The next day, the same ritual of preparing dinner in the morning started. But this time I stopped myself. I did not go into the pantry. I did not reach down to the tub of brown onions. I did not peel or chop one and add it to my saucepan. I like garlic. Actually I love garlic. So instead, on this particular morning, that is how I started. One generous serve of extra virgin olive oil and a good dash of garlic.

That week, the brown onion kept niggling away at my mind. What else do I do without thinking? What habits have I learnt so inherently from my childhood that they no longer required conscious thought to complete?

brown onion, learning habits, nine months more

That is when it struck me. So much of what I do and who I am is inherent. Good or bad, it happens, every day. So much that I do not notice. I do not question. Perplexed, I began to think: what do I do now that my boys will mirror in their lives?

I don’t need to wait for the future to have an answer to that question.

AJ already is obsessively tidy and neat. He already follows order and routine with such ease and comfort. He needs that in his day, just like his mother does. PJ, while only three, already sits and lingers in my shadow. Just the other morning I came downstairs to find him already awake and sitting at the computer. I asked him what he was doing and he righteously, almost defiantly, said “I’m working on my blog mum.”

Right then I learned that I may teach my boys their manners. I may teach them how to behave when we go out. I may teach them to how to sit at the dinner table to eat and join in our family conversation. But maybe what I am not teaching them is what they are learning the most.

  • LydiaCLee

    That’s like the ham story. This woman always cut her ham leg on half when baking it. The daughter grew to do the same, as did her daughter. One day the great grand daughter asked why? Her mother decided to ask why, they did this. Her mother told her because that’s what HER mother had done. They asked the original woman and she said that her oven was too small to fit it in whole, so she cut it in half….

  • Lovely post. 🙂

  • Lyndal G

    What a lovely post – and how true for most people, learning by the actions of those we are close to

  • Loree

    I wanted to say thanks for your recent comments on my blog. You have something wonderful going on here. Incidentally, I also start most my meals with onion and garlic but I happen to love both. I think that our kids learns a lot of the things we do not teach them but they develop their own little personalities and characters.

  • Lee

    There are some mothers, some parents who sadly don’t think the way you do…to the detriment of the children they’ve brought into the world. Children, the precious little commodities who are our future…

    Keep going the way you are Josefa….hold onto the values you have…and pass those values onto your children….and all will be well in your world and theirs. 🙂

  • toushka

    I started to question the little things I did a while ago. The little things my husband did annoyed me, and then his mother visited and I noticed she did the same things. So I wondered why it was that I thought my way was the best way and his way was so annoying and wrong. funny.
    I hate onions

  • Krystle Sky

    I watched my mum thrown an onion first while growing up. And when I met my now husband, one of his first objections with my cooking was onion. It’s funny how I’ve never quiet gotten used to many meals because there’s no onion. . .

  • Rachel @TaoOfPoop

    I completely relate to the idea of doing things out of habit. I start with onion and garlic in about 90% of the dishes and I’ve questioned myself, just like you. I like onion, though! I enjoyed reading this post.


  • I always start with onions! Every single time!
    But then, I do love onions 🙂

  • Danya Banya

    A stint in a foreign country helps with his immensely. You see things done differently, that previously I would have called “wrong”.

  • Cathy

    Great post and very true about the things we teach and learn subconsciously.

  • Catherine RodieBlagg

    I guess I start with onions most of the time! but I don’t think it’s a subconscious thing – just that most of the things I cool need onion! There are plenty of things I do without really thinking about it though. Lovely writing.

  • Grace

    So much truth in this post. We just do things because it’s comforting to start off with things we know best – whether it was taught to us consciously or sub-consciously.

  • My grandmother used to say, if your day gets away and you want your husband to think you have a meal on the way when he walks in the door, just cook an onion – it will smell like you have been in the kitchen for hours 🙂

  • Great post. I love this. I love the way you write. The little vignettes that offer an insight into you. Beautiful.

  • Maria Kani

    I started with onion and garlic too! I have just finished preparing a lasagne for dinner…lol. I believe we inherit traits from our parents, and we mirror a lot of their behaviours when young. I too have always been very tidy and neat; just like my mother. If I had to choose one thing that my mother instilled in me though, it was independence; including independence of thought. I was taught to challenge everything, be open minded and that to learn was one of the most rewarding things in life. As such, I don’t necessarily do things the way I saw them being done, but like many others I think once I find what I believe to be the best way of doing things for me I, I can tend to stick to tried and true habits.

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