Why do I bother? Hm???

I’ve often had compliments on the long plaits of shallots that hang in my kitchen for half the year. People have asked me how to do it, but It’s difficult to explain. Nobody taught me, you see. I just did it. I think it must have been some sort of atavistic race-memory due to a Breton heritage and the long history of the Johnny Onions (not that I grow onions) who came over to the UK on their bikes, laden with plaits of onions.

I’ve wondered in the past about maybe doing a ‘how to’ post… I shshallots, posingould have known better.

Lovely sunny evening yesterday – lovely sunny day, in fact, except I was away. Put shallots out to bask in sun on return. Shallots been curing for some days now, on and off, dodging rain showers. Looked over shallots, realised stalks drying out nicely, just about ready for plaiting.

Did first string, always a bit fiddly and untidy as body memory takes a bit of time to return. Worked fine; not forgotten how after all.

Then had an ‘aha’ moment re finally getting round to doing tutorial post. Good idea. In theory.

Went and got camera, took shot of ready and waiting scene. Selected first three fat shallots, got strong stalks, quite long stalks too, vital. Set up first shot. Angle of sun not the easiest but hey. Cross three over each other…

shallot prep

Not sure that’s right. Rearrange shallots.

Unfortunately neglected to notice precariously balanced trug, despite having photographed it earlier for potential set-up shot:


which then falls to ground with strange noise. Inadvertently jump back, stand in trug, fall over. Swear mightily. Rearrange self, trug, shallots. Where camera? Camera under bench. Retrieve camera. Camera OK.

Set up next shot, where you bend the one in the middle over the one on the left:

shallot plaitingHm.

Hang on, that’s wrong, should be the one on the right which goes over. Should it? Rearrange shallots. No, that was fine. Reaarange shallots. Next shallots due to be used fall down gap between planks of bench. Hold plait in place with camera, retrieve shallots from grass. Camera weight not enough, rearrange shallots…

I do know how to do this, honest. Decide to do another practice string, sans camera. This works, so decide to take shot showing back of plait:


Hold string up to do so. Unfortunately noise has – unbeknownst to me, because I was concentrating on thinking consciously about something I can do quite well unconsciously – attracted Next Door’s Cat.

Cat leaps on table, bats dangling shallot string with mighty paw. Have clearly made edible cat toy. Swing string away from cat, cat follows, try and biff cat with shallots, trug falls off bench again, step into the ********* trug again, fall over. Swear even more mightily, with added shouting. Cat runs off.

Abandon all hope of producing online tutorial on ancient Breton art of plaiting onions and related doo-dahs. Just do the rest, no camera, they’re fine.

shallots in kitchen

Years ago, when I was a stand-up, I used to despise slapstick. I evidently missed my way. Again.

Incidentally, when typing this up, the WordPress spellchecker kept changing ‘trug’ to ‘drug’. If only.



18 Comments Add yours

  1. lizard100 says:

    I loved this post. I’ve plaited onions before but am also not sure how I did it. Our onions need hanging now as does the garlic. Thanks for reminding me.

    1. kate says:

      Just make sure there are no cats anywhere near you… Grrrrrr…

  2. PaulneP says:

    Wonderful, really enjoyed this post! I have done it once with onions, but can’t remember how it started!

    1. kate says:

      Do you also want a cat? Just asking.

      Starting is the fiddly bit, even without feline assistance. In actual fact I find that as soon as you start adding more onions to the thread, the start looks after itself. It’s just hard to believe it will be Ok when it looks as though it ought to fall apart…

  3. croftgarden says:

    Life is full of these little conundrums about can do but can’t demonstrate, like being able to tie your apron strings in a bow behind your back or shoe laces (nor behind your back of course). But I never got the hang of shoe laces either!

    1. kate says:

      Ah yes, the apron strings one (I can do shoe laces, well walking boots). And let us not forget, those of us who had to suffer them, the school tie. Ergh.

  4. hoehoegrow says:

    Ha ha ha ! Loved the post! Oh how I wish it had been a video !!

    1. kate says:

      NO. JUST NO. Grrrrrrrr, I’m so glad it wasn’t…

  5. wellywoman says:

    Fantastic! Oh this did make me chuckle, especially the bit about biffing the cat. I do feel for you. I’m in the midst of creating projects for book 2. I’m fine doing them at my own speed when I don’t have a camera pointing at me. As soon as camera comes along I become this clumsy creature who can’t even remember my left from my right. It’s embarrassing when the photographer, bless him, has to to say ‘no, the other right’. I think if the whole shallot plaiting episode had been caught on film you’d be a Youtube hit by now. 😉

    1. kate says:

      Glad it’s not just me! I’ve learned my lesson with doing how-tos for knitting and spinning; don’t know why I thought I could get away with one on gardening. As far as I recall NDC (aka that bloody animal) was involved with a spinning one as well. I must have a very short memory.

      (And a far-too tolerant attitude to cats who – let me remind them just in case they have access to the internet, and I’m sure they do, on the QT, otherwise how do you explain the huge number of online cat vids? – are not mine.)

  6. absolutely fabulous post on how to make cat doo-dahs Breton style – look forward to many more tutorials

    1. kate says:

      Next one: how to murder your neighbours cat and get away with it (only joking, I quite like him really)…

  7. Now that’s my kind of tutorial Kate! Maybe you should return to the comedy circuit and embrace the slapstick? Take the cat, though I doubt it would cooperate as much as the dog in Joan Collins Fan Club… Oh, how I used to love seeing Julian Clarey live! The plaits look great, but you can’t fool me, you deliberately sabotaged the tutorial to protect the secrets of your Breton ancestors.

    1. kate says:

      Unfortunately he’s not my cat to take (spot the weak excuse). Mind you, I did once see Fanny the Wonderdog behave badly too…

      It was the cat wot dun it in terms of spoiling the tutorial (oh, OK, it was me too, but I had help). I don’t think he has Breton ancestry – bit of a Heinz 57 varieties, mind, so whip knows? Got some Badger, Farm Cat, Feather Duster and Tyrannosaurus Rex in there too.

      1. I’m sure if you asked nicely you could borrow him, and if he has a touch of T. Rex he could deal with any hecklers…

  8. hillwards says:

    Lovely shallots. I’ve plaited onions and garlic before, just treating them like hair 🙂 Seemed to do the trick! Grew shallots from seed this year so they are singles, still in the ground. I wonder whether they will plait?

    1. kate says:

      I’ve never grown them from seed before – I don’t see why they wouldn’t plait, if the stems are long enough. In fact, would probably be easier, as there’s be none of those twin ones…

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.