Ever heard of the Ailsa Craig onion? “It’s the only raw onion I can eat,” declared Jim Grillo, owner of Northshire Farms, as he stood in front of a box of big globe-shaped orbs at his stand at New York City’s Union Square Greenmarket. With those words, I immediately bought a couple with the vision of a thick slice of sweet onion nestled in a generous slick of mayonnaise on a piece of crusty bread for lunch. That was about four years ago. It made the best onion sandwich ever, so I’ve been buying bagsful of Ailsa Craigs from Grillo ever since.
Last week, as I was loading my cart with more onions, I wondered aloud about the name. The question launched Grillo into one of those only-in-New-York stories.
Three years ago, a young fellow, about 19 to 20 years old, came up to the stand, and then immediately dropped down to the ground in front of the table. Grillo thought he might be having some sort of seizure, but the guy quickly pulled out a camera. “He starts taking pictures of himself gyrating around, smiling, in different positions pointing to the sign,” said Grillo. “He was crazy like.” When Grillo asked him what was going on, the fellow replied in a Scottish brogue, “I come from there! I live there! It’s an island off the coast of Scotland.” Grillo quickly solved the Scot’s problem. Grillo handed the fellow an onion, positioned him next to the sign, and snapped the picture for him. Continue reading