Monday, July 8, 2013

Readers are like Pickled Onions



That's us, everyone. Pickled onions. Writers and blog-visitors alike are also readers. I'm sure many of us have been avid readers since our childhood. The longer we've been reading, the more pickled we are. Let me explain the analogy in more detail.

You peel your raw onions and soak them in a delicious, briny solution that you've made up with yummy ingredients such as vinegar and brown sugar. Eventually, a chemical reaction takes place. The onions you take out are nothing like the hard onions you put in. They are soft enough to bite chunks straight out of in a way you'd never manage with the original raw onions. Some people think they are a delicious treat. Whether you like them or not, one thing is clear. They can never go back to being the same hard, raw onion they started as. They've been changed to the core.

Books are like the delicious brine and readers are like the onions. We get to soak in stories, biographies, reflections, inspired thoughts and knowledge. These are the ingredients that make up the brine. We come out better and different. We're spicier people with softer hearts. We can have more interesting conversations. We're more creative than we would have been, more clued-up about the world, more empathetic, less inclined to be self-focused.

From the time we were young, the brine has been working its special chemical reaction on us. We get to wonder, 'Would I have succombed to the White Witch's turkish delight if I had been Edmund?' We see Milly Molly Mandy living with all her relatives in that thatched roof cottage, loving their simple lifestyles even though they had hardly any money. Like Beauty, we grow to understand the Beast's many great qualities, fall for him too, and realise that judgment based on first impressions is limited. We follow the whole process of the work on Marilla Cuthbert's heart until she decides to keep Anne at Green Gables. And how could Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy end up together after the bad start they had?

We're pickled onions, and we wouldn't have it any other way. We have softer hearts. We've been given insight into human nature which makes us more understanding than we might otherwise have been. We're simply nicer people, based on our reading history. And those of us who are also writers have the fun of making up our own special brine recipes to help pickle more onions.

Paula Vince is a novelist and homeschooling mother who lives in South Australia's beautiful Adelaide Hills. Some of her contemporary adventure romances have won awards. She has loved soaking in the brine of wonderful books since her childhood, and her aim is always to pay it forward. Visit her at www.paulavince.com or www.justoccurred.blogspot.com

31 comments:

  1. Ha! And I thought I had heard of everything! Nicely done, Paula. Nicely done. Yes, I'm a pickled onion, too.

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    1. :) thanks dandelionfleur, or Lisa, isn't it? Yes, there are quite a few of us around.

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  2. Love your original blog, Paula. Over our lifetime we readers take in more than we imagine.

    Jesus told us to be like salt, but I never thought of spicy brine and its softening effect. Great analogy.

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    1. Hi Rita, Now that you mention it, it does remind me of Jesus' salt analogy too. Readers and writers are salty, briny people, in a good way. (It makes us sound like old sailors.)

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  3. Just laughed out loud when I read the analogy in your blog, Paula, and saw the photo of that jar of pickled onions! Hopefully, our readers are a little more varied than those pickles in the jar, but I get what you're saying! I guess it depends too on the type of books we read as to how we are changed--so that's an added responsibility for authors to think about how our books will impact others.

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    1. Absolutely, Jo-Anne. I guess there are as many varieties in the types of brine we soak in and create as there are readers and writers. Not only are we pickled onions but very varied ones.

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  4. This analogy excites me because it shows just how beneficial writing and story-telling is to mankind. Also, it means all that time we "waste" sitting and reading is really not wasted at all.

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    1. Hi Adam, I know exactly what you mean. I've struggled with the feeling that I should be doing something more productive during those moments of reading. But not only does it help us with our jobs as writers, it's also good for us.

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  5. What a great analogy, Paula. And there is room for adaptation to other concepts... (you will get the credit :) Thank you!

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    1. Hi Margaret, yes, I think you're right. Feel free to use it as you please :)

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  6. What a beautiful analogy Paula. Very well expressed. I do like the idea of being a pickled onion - delicious and just right! :) Thank you!

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    1. Me too, Anusha. They do make the occasional nice addition to a salad sandwich.

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  7. That made me smile Paula. I never thought of readers as being pickled! But though I love your analogy, can I be the jar of apricot preserves in Marilla's cupboard instead? I never did meet a pickled onion I liked (LOL) You have a gift for story telling Paula. On a serious note though, it does make you think about people who don't read great books, but instead fill their minds with less commendable prose (e.g., sleazy, satanic, vengeful etc). From your analogy, those things would be seeping into their character as well. Great food for thought Paula (oops ... no pun intended)

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    1. Hi Nola, yes, your comment makes me realise the value of what we do in adding wholesome things to all the literature out there. Yep, Marilla's apricot preserves sounds good to me too :)

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  8. Had a Lol moment on this one, Paula. I really like Pickled Onions. They always make an appearance on our nibbles platter.xo

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    1. Me too, Rose. They're so versatile, aren't they?

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  9. I LOVE pickled onions Paula, and will think of you and your pondering every time I eat one now!

    A friend told me she had read my website posts and they had really meant something to her.....she is dying of cancer, how blessed I felt to have written some lines on a website that touched her heart!

    Thanks for your post :-)

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  10. I LOVE pickled onions Paula, and will think of you and your pondering every time I eat one now!

    A friend told me she had read my website posts and they had really meant something to her.....she is dying of cancer, how blessed I felt to have written some lines on a website that touched her heart!

    Thanks for your post :-)

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    1. Hi Di,
      Yes, I think of this at those moments too. And how wonderful to find that you were a blessing like that.

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  11. Yes, reading fiction takes our minds off our own problems and makes us think about someone else’s problems for a while and in the process we become more empathetic.

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    1. Hi Susan,
      I read about a scientific study which came up with provable results for the empathy shown by readers as opposed to non-readers. Fiction readers came out best of all.

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  12. Such a lovely analogy Paula, even though I'm not one to eat pickled onions. Next time I see one I might try it though, just to remind me of your great thoughts. Reading and writing could take the whole of life, couldn't it, and we'd learn much, enjoy much, and grow to be better people. I can't imagine why people are not readers even if they are not writers!

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  13. Hi Carol,
    I agree with you completely. I can't help thinking that many people might cross to the other side, if only they agreed to read a couple of good books.

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  14. I have been thinking about this since I saw the post. When I first saw the title I was shocked. To be referred to as a pickled onion where I see a pickled onion as something bitter and yuck really didn't sit well. I did read the post and I do see what you are saying and it can be a good analogy. I just wanted to give a readers point of view to seeing a title like this. We readers can be very sensitive and just a title may be enough for a reader to feel picked on which I know is not the intention.

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  15. That's right, no offense intended, Jenny, especially as I'm quite partial to pickled onions. I'm an avid reader too, so certainly wouldn't want to make anyone feel picked on or shocked. I do have a bit of an odd sense of humour at times, and sometimes forget that what I may find humourous, others may not.

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  16. Thats ok Paula, I just felt I needed to mention my reaction. (of course unless its beetroot I dont like any veggies). I did understand what you were saying and while I may not have taken the turkish delight I did try to go through my wardrobe just like I wanted so much to climb the magic faraway tree and even join Mr Gilliano's circus. Was thinking about a comment someone said about ratings and 5 star being stalk the author and read all books if I could have stalked Enid Bylton as a kid I think I would have as I devoured her books and I still think about those books that I read so much.

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  17. Great post Paula - I'm feeling rather pickled right now ... or is that tickled??? Anyway it makes me think of all those sayings like 'you are what you eat,' and 'garbage in, garbage out,' those kind of things. What we read produces fruit in our lives (the chemical reaction). And following through from that - what I write might produce fruit in someone else's life. I'd best make sure it will be good fruit (or spicy pickled onions). :)

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    1. Hi Amanda,
      Yes, I had images of some of those food charts too. I like the chemical reaction for what we take on board through reading as well as eating. I'm sure we're all aiming to help good fruit production.

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  18. Love the analogy, Paula. I will never look at a pickled onion the same way again.

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  19. Of course I also love pickled onions.

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    1. Thanks Dale, it's interesting what analogies can be made from at times, isn't it?

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