Monday, January 23, 2012

The Onion

I have mentioned the onion several times. It's easily one of my favorite ingredients, for the obvious reasons of course. But I also have this weird idea that the onion contains something unique, something so good for me that it will protect me in the case of danger.

Confused? Read on then!

When I was younger, I read books. These days, I only read comics. But back when I was a teenager, I actually read a lot of books. I got recommended this novel, and a couple of things with this book has just stuck permanently with me ever since. Books have the tendency to do that, good books more often than bad books.
Today, I can't really say if "Holes" is considered a good novel, but according to the wikipedia article, it won a price, and got turned into a movie with the screaming fool from the awful Transformers live-action movies. So there's that.

The novel tells the story about a kid that gets sent to a summer camp, where he and the other kids are badly treated. There's some crime going on too I think. I can't really talk about the plot more specifically than that, but I can tell you what I vividly remember. The kids ate onions, and it saved their lives. While they hid in the holes they had dug, the fact that the kids reeked of onions, the dangerous lizards didn't want to bite them.
I remember liking this book, so I guess I can recommend it. I suspect it's for teenagers, but you know.. The Hobbit was a book for kids, and it should still be an enjoyable read for anyone.

Oh.. very off-topic to the onions, but slightly on topic of The Hobbit.

We are finally getting LEGOlas. The world is a richer place.

But the onions, after I read Holes, I have always looked at the onion in a slightly different light. Almost as if the onion was a far better product than I deserved to eat. Almost as if it would grant me powers of some sort. It is healthy, it contains nothing that's bad for me. But that's something everyone knows. After reading Holes, it felt as if the secret of the onion had been unlocked, and I could see it for what it truly was. Something sublime, something esoteric.

Let me try to put it in words - and pictures.
This is an onion. It looks weird. The outer shell is often unappealing, it doesn't look fresh.

But this is the facade, this is the first step the onion takes to avoid the unworthy. The people who will dismiss this vegetable as ugly, unappealing, and uneatable.

Then you cut it open, and witness the pearly white shine of the meat, and the layered protection that will always make sure parts of the onion is fresh. The shell is the protection - and protection is never pretty, only functional. I have never tried to find out how long an onion can be stored, but I'm pretty sure it's longer than any other vegetable.

And this is what I consider the second barrier of the onion. The fact that it has both a strong smell, and a strong taste when it's raw makes it less appealing to the unassuming - the ignorant. The fact that it can irritate you when you cut it is reinforcing this barrier even more.
But the moment you cook it, it will become sweeter than any other ingredient you normally use when cooking dinner. It's juicy and delicious, and will even reinforce other tastes. You have passed the two barriers, you have unlocked the secret of the onion.
This is luckily not something I'm the first to point out. The historical and traditional use of the onion is borderline crazy, with anything from the belief that onion juice increased muscle strength, to onions being good for the blood. It's also being used as both an aphrodisiac to healing wounds.

From now on, you are free to experiment, like the gladiators that rubbed onion on their muscles and the Hindus that used it to get aroused.
Or you can be traditional and eat it. I never make scrambled eggs without onion, and it's a mainstay in my sauces. It's awesome in burgers or on burgers. It's great in salads and soups, and for all I know, it can also be used as a main dish. I have some ideas for how to do this, but feel free to drop me a line if you have any creative way of using the onion.

In essence, the onion is a flawless ingredient, and in some ways under-appreciated. Obviously, everybody uses onions when they're cooking, but do they ever stop to marvel at the greatness? The onion may be common, but it still has a status far below staple food like potatoes or rice.
Sure... the onion is mostly water.

But even more so, it's mostly awesome.

Enjoy, people!

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