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Unexpected Consequences: Foraging in the Mountains of the Albanian Riviera

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

It all started innocently enough. I was out and about, going for my usual run through the Albanian Riviera toward a mountain with a splendid view of Corfu across the Ionian Sea.

Enjoying the glorious day, bleeding sweat, an intriguing bulb caught my eye upon the path before me--what appeared to be an onion. Why in the world would someone hiking up this path drop an errant onion on the trail? How peculiar. I set the onion off to the side and pressed on.

The darnedest thing happened: I spotted another one along the path.

Where had these mountain onions come from? Surely any native babushka would not be so reckless with such a provisional staple.

Onion # 2

I looked up along the bank of the trail to see some bulbs growing out from the rocks and the dirt. I pulled one out, roots and all. With a frenzied and unbridled glee, I began collecting the bulbs en masse. With nothing to carry them all with, save for my shirt, I made do.

Possessed, I came lumbering down the mountain, coated in dirt and sweat and streaks of suntan lotion, and a shirt nine months pregnant with onions. What a sight I must've been for the locals to behold!

Stoked: How about them onions, eh?

Delirious on the brink of heatstroke on the trek back home, I cooked up ideas for these freshly harvested bulbs. Onion fritters? Onion rings? French onion soup? Relish? Dip? Baked pakora or onion bhaji? Sogan dolma (Bosnian stuffed onions)? Pajeon (Korean onion pancake)?

So many different varieties of onion came to mind--red, white and yellow, sweet, and pearl onions, shallots, chives, scallions...

But these were mine. Mountain-grown. Wild. Mine.

I transported my haul, safely home, and was itching to regale my husband with the tale of my trophy-hunting. He seemed more impressed by my dirt tattoos and the blood dripping down my ankle than the bounty of onions I'd harvested.

Pile of onions?
The pile of onions I plopped before James as he sat outside on the balcony, writing and rethinking our marriage

Wild mountain onion hunting is serious business. Nature gave up her bounty reluctantly.

"Are you okay?" James asked earnestly. I confessed to being perplexed by his lack of enthusiasm. "I don't think eating these things is a good idea," he said plainly and matter-of-factly between gulps of black coffee. "Those are not onions."

I went off on some spiel about these wild mountain onions and my plans to cook them up for an extravagant homemade dinner later that evening.

Don Quixote charging at a windmill.
lllustration of Don Quixote by Gustave Doré depicting the famous windmill scene of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's famous novel.

James knew better than to spar with me further on this point. Once I have a quest in mind, I'm about as reasonable as Don Quixote on his ass Rocinante about to charge into a windmill, swearing on my step-father's grave it's a giant or Great Enchanter. Once I've convinced myself of a thing, only death itself can derail my course.

Onion pancakes were on tap tonight, with a sweet and savory tomato purée glazed and doodled on in the shape of a loving heart garnish!

Husband took a bite politely and dutifully, and proceeded to spend the next twenty minutes in the lavatory emptying his bowels and upheaving from attempted manslaughter. It was then, as James groveled on death's doorstep, I sobered up, spat out my glorified onion cake with ketchup and remarked that it tasted of poison!

Profuse apologies ensued, and are still ensuing to this day.

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