Where do little shallots come from?

“Are those onions…or…shallots?” The 50-something grocery store clerk examined the small vegetable carefully. “Shallots,” I said. “Same family as onions, they say.” In fact, shallots are a type of onion, according to Wikipedia.

This interchange in our local grocery made me think immediately of a story on NPR or the Food Channel some years ago about how some kids growing up in innercity “food deserts,” so-called, have no idea that strange looking items their elders call food, like carrots, actually grow in the ground and are meant to be eaten. Not so odd, actually, when you think about it, for people from another planet.

But the fact of this makes the point that if we never learn what actual, natural, healthy food is and how we get it, we should expect the food we get—from fast food joints and processed food purveyors.

I’m all for vegetable gardening, in any form: window-sill pots to corporation megafields to seaweed farms. And even if over time we figure out to provide healthy vegetables to everyone, everywhere, even if 98% of the world’s English peas come from Peru, kids in every generation should get the chance to grow a carrot or a shallot or at least see and touch how it’s done. Grocery clerks should know when a shallot is not a yellow onion or anything else.

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