The Victor D. Spark papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Victor D. Spark papers, circa 1830-1983, bulk 1930-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation
Even Shakespeare felt the doleful properties of onions. “The tears that live in an onion should water this sorrow,” he wrote in Antony and Cleopatra. But now there are happier culinary days on the horizon. House Food Groups, one of Japan’s largest food manufacturers, has just come out with a tear-free version of the notoriously eye-burning bulbs.
House Foods first identified the enzyme behind the onion’s pungent properties in 2002—a discovery that earned them the Ig Nobel Prize. In the years since, the company has figured out how to weaken theses enzymes by bombarding an onion with irradiating ions.
House Foods said all 20 of its employees didn’t taste any pungency in the resulting onions, which have the added benefit of not leaving a strong smell on the cook’s hands or the breath of those who eat them. “It not only reduces the tears, but should put more smiles” on the faces of whoever is in the kitchen, the company said.
Onions make you cry because they release a compound once they are cut or crushed. It's an evolutionary design to repel bugs or animals that try to eat it. As chemist Erick Block explained to NPR:
They’re there to allow the plant to survive in a very hardscrabble world, a world where there are lots of worms in the ground and animals that would devour something that exists and has to survive as a bulb in the ground … Plants can’t run, so they stay and fight, and they’re wonderful at it.
House Foods has not yet made plans to release their new onions commercially. Until they do, Block has some other tips to help you enjoy actually cooking the vegetable: cool it down before cutting it (which reduces its volatility), use a kitchen hood to pull the fumes out or chop it under water so that the compounds are not released into the air. Try it out, and hopefully the only thing watering will be your mouth.
Picking seed in a great onion field (E.) at Quedlinburg. 10429 Interpositive
Underwood & Underwood
Silver gelatin on glass
1 item, 5" x 8"
Currently stored in box 3.2.35 .
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History : Archives Center. P.O. Box 37012, Suite 1100, MRC 601, Constitution Ave., between 12th and 14th Sts., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20013-7012. Call 202-633-3270 for appointment. Fax: 202-786-2453
Title source: Index card based on photographer's notes.
Image index by negative number and EEPA subject categories
"Agricultural activity is dedicated to the onion gardens whose small squares full of onion shoots transform the ground into a chessboard. This cultivation is of great economic importance as these onions, pounded, rolled into balls and dried, are the Dogon's only exportable crop. In the Sanga region, the surface area covered by these plots has increased significantly thanks to the dam built by Marcel Griaule in 1949." [Calame-Griaule G., 2004: The Dogon: A Balancing Act on the Cliffs. In Dogon: People of the Cliffs. 5 Continents Editions srl]. During his trip to Mali, Elisofon visited the Dogon people in Sanga (Sangha), a group of thirteen villages lying east of Bandiagara at the top of an escarpment. The most important villages are Ogol-du-Haut and Ogol-du-Bas. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon traveled to Africa from March 17, 1970 to July 17, 1970.
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African Art, Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, 950 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20560-0708