While planting Rose de Roscoff onion sets in early-spring for a French restaurant, I was told a story about a group of Frenchmen.
From the town of Roscoff in France, the group of men - called Johnnies (onion sellers) - in the mid-1800s came to the UK to sell their onions to the British. Rose de Roscoff, a variety that grows in abundance in the specific soil type that is found in Roscoff, has a pink flesh and is sweet and mild. The Johnnies used to set off during the summer on foot, later making the journey by bike (crossing the channel by cargo boat), to sell their onions door-to-door in England. In 1929 the trade’s growth meant that 9,000 tons of onions were being bought from around 1,400 sellers.
This tale of provenance and heritage is also one of a cycle commute and a rich tradition of using bikes as modes of transport and for cargo.
My own commute, which pales in comparison to the journey of the Johnnies, nonetheless means I load my bike with supplies for my job as a barista. In the two baskets I carry milk and freshly baked pastries.