08 April 2010

The advantages of an onion

A delicious addition to spaghetti sauce
or quesadillas, fajitas and stir fry.
An essential for soups and stews.
Quite useful for feigning emotion
or bringing an entire room to tears
or perhaps blinding an enemy--you never know when that might come in handy.

For some reason I had the sudden urge to buy an onion today. They just seem so practical and delicious! Seriously!

It has been years since I have really cared much for onions, but there was a phase in my life when I ate them all the time. I loved to put onion on sandwiches and in salads. I habitually cooked onions and ate them with almost any meal--I especially loved onions cooked with zucchini (my very favorite veggie!). But then onions lost their appeal. Suddenly they seemed too strong; too potent and harsh. My delicate palate could only handle them in small doses hidden amongst other foods. Then I came to college and started buying food for myself, but dear old onion never made it into the cart. And slowly, he was forgotten.

But that is about to change. On my next trip to the store the onion will have a place of honor in the front of the cart. I have great plans for this pungent friend--oh the miraculous meals that I will make! I am so very glad to have my eyes opened once again to the advantages of this oft misunderstood root.

In honor of this joyous occasion I shall share with you a poem I read a few years that speaks of this dear vegetable in much more elegant words I can summon. . .

by William Matthews

How easily happiness begins by
dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
slithers and swirls across the flow
of the sauté pan, especially if its
errant path crosses a tiny stick
of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

This could mean soup or risotto
or chutney (from the Sanskrit
chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions
go limp and then nacreous
and then what cookbooks call clear,
though if they were eyes you could see

clearly the cataracts in them.
It's true it can make you weep
to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
from the taut ball first the brittle,
caramel-colored and decrepit
papery outside layer, the least

recent and reticent onion
wrapped around its growing body,
for there's nothing to an onion
but skin, and it's true you can go on
weeping as you go on in, through
the moist middle skins, the sweetest

and thickest, and you can go on
in to the core, to the bud-like,
acrid, fibrous skins densely
clustered there, stalky and in-
complete, and these are the most
pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

and rage and murmury animal
comfort that infant humans secrete.
This is the best domestic perfume.
You sit down to eat with a rumor
of onions still on your twice-washed
hands and lift to your mouth a hint

of a story about loam and usual
endurance. It's there when you clean up
and rinse the wine glasses and make
a joke, and you leave the minutest
whiff of it on the light switch,
later, when you climb the stairs.

"Onions" by William Matthews cited from The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry Second Edition edited by J.D. McClatchy (2003). Vintage Books: New York. Pages 491-492.


shari @ little blue deer said...

Oh, I hate onions, and my husband always teases me because of it! But maybe the onion poem will help me open my mind to the onion, ha, my husband will appreciate it!

Shelby Levesque said...

This post made me soooo hungry! (:

brittany barney said...

hello there, just saw that you are following and wanted to thank you for it! i love your blog! it is so darling! and this is such a great post!

e. del mar said...

oh you are making my heart so happy.

Carrie said...

hahha. i like it:D

follow me too, yeah?


Anonymous said...

i think onions make things so tasty! and i love the smell of them cooking! very nostalgic :)