Keeping traditions alive
“It’s time to mow the yard,” said my lovely wife. We live in the country on a five-acre plot.
“Again?” I obediently went out to mow. I don’t think you can really call it mowing the lawn. It is more like a dandelion seed relocation project. The dandelion stems reach up out of the grass and give a scruffy lawn impression. We also have thousands of tall wild onion plants.
I like the aroma of mowing the tops off the onions. Thinking about wild onions reminds me of when I was a boy.
When I was a boy, my mother looked forward to the arrival of wild onions. They sprouted in the alley behind our house next to our burn barrel. She would carry a bag of fresh, soft Wonderbread. I would carry the saltshaker. We would pull those onions, wrap them in a slice of bread, salt them and eat them, on the spot. Just shake the dirt off the roots and eat them. Those onion sandwiches were delicious. The first fruits of spring. My mother claimed they were a tonic that was good for the body.
We are of Cherokee descent. The Cherokees look forward to appearance of wild onions. A favorite dish is wild onions and eggs. First you pick and coarsely chop about a cup of wild onions. Next, put the onions in a cast iron skillet with a quarter cup of water. Cook and stir them until they are limp. Then add a heaping teaspoon or two of lard or bacon grease. Now pour in six eggs and scramble it all up together. Salt to taste. It will only take about ten minutes, start to finish, and will serve four hungry people. Thinking about wild onions and eggs floods me with childhood memories.
Gathering wild onions was done as a family and thought to be a cleansing agent and the passing from winter into spring. It was a way to reconnect with nature and enjoy the spring sunshine together.
Another treat was fried pork chops with wild onion gravy. The pork chops were fried in lard or bacon grease. After the chops were removed from a cast-iron skillet, about a quarter cup of water was added to the drippings. Coarsely chopped wild onions were added and sautéed until tender, about ten minutes. Next, sprinkle flour over the onions and continue to cook, stirring for two to three minutes. Slowly add milk and continue stirring until you have the gray consistency that suits you. Thick or thin, wild onion gravy smothered pork chops are delicious!
Native American traditions will live on if the recipes are passed from generation to generation. If we should ever stop teaching the young people, the traditions will die. The same is true of the Christian faith. We must continue to pass along the recipe of life in Christ.
“Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always... You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 11).
Chuck Terrill, who has doctorates from Master Theological Seminary and Trinity Seminary, is the senior minister at First Christian Church in Cassville. He may be reached at 417-847-2460.