12 September 2020 – Newent Onion Fayre

Well. I’m never doing that again. 

It’s the Newent Onion Fayre in Gloucestershire today, or it would have been blah, blah, blah. The annual Newent Onion Fayre is held every second Saturday in September. And with the exception of a couple of decades between the World Wars and 1996, it’s been going since the 13th century. Sheep was its first love, but by the end of the 18th century it had switched its affections to onions. And when it started back up again in the ’90s, Newent stepped up its love and introduced the onion eating competition.

Now, I consider myself a fan of the onion too. I am particularly partial to a chive and never say no to a scallion. But I can’t say I’ve ever eaten an onion like an apple. Nor have I ever wanted to. But this is The Everyday Lore Project, and I made a commitment to folklore. So into the kitchen I strode.

First off, I didn’t have any large white onions. The competition rules state that the ladies need to chow down on a 5oz onion, and they’re all white onions in the pictures. But I did have a red onion. Which some might consider as cheating, given red onions are considered the milder of the two. But then I found a red onion that tipped the scales at exactly 5oz. It was fate. Except that after peeling it, it came in at 4.7oz.

I had a time to beat. Last year’s winner, Leanne Wright managed to polish hers off in 50.9 seconds. I looked at the onion. The onion looked at me. And then I pressed record:

I lasted 35.5 seconds. Searing gullet pain coupled with hideous eye sting put the kibosh on my attempt. And it was a truly pathetic one, I didn’t even get half way through. Milder of the two onions, my arse. With my mouth still burning from the onion’s sulphuric acid, I swigged back a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter to replace the taste. The only other food I had to hand was chocolate spread, and that somehow didn’t seem appropriate. The peanut butter sort of did the trick, but even now, my mouth still tastes like I’ve been licking a leek. But you know, waste not want not. I’ve just sliced a load of the leftovers into my dinner, and put the rest in the fridge for tomorrow. Now if I could just get the smell of onion off my fingers…

As for the salt water under the bed, this morning it looked identical to last night, which may or may not be entirely a good thing. Can’t say I’ve felt any less sluggish. But then I’ve only just remembered I was supposed to flush it away this morning. Probably best I go and do that now then.

The Everyday Lore Project has been running for over nine months now, with just a few more to go. If this is your first time reading it, I’ve been trying out folklore from the ritual year, or doing something folklore related every day since getting drunk on St Distaff’s Day (for folklore science, of course). So if you’ve liked what you’ve read, please spread the word by using the share buttons and by subscribing. Thank you!




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  1. Glorious Barbara
    13 September 2020

    I laughed so much at this! I’m sorry that I found your oniony torment so amusing

  2. Glorious Barbara
    13 September 2020

    There must be a chilli eating contest you could do.

  3. Glorious Barbara
    13 September 2020

    Where’s your commitment???

  4. Glorious Barbara
    13 September 2020

    I suppose you do need to consider the health and safety of your innards.

    • 13 September 2020

      True. I’m partial about my tastebuds too. Although I have horrendous onion mouth this morning…

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