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An Ode To Onions

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Onions, Can You Live Without Them?” So asked The Novice Gardener in her most recent post, right before spilling out an assortment of rare and wonderful onion recipes. What a great title that is! First because it instantly engages the reader by forcing an almost visceral reaction – a clear and resounding “No! You can’t!” –  and second because it immediately brings to life images and smells that are as soothing as hot Sunday afternoons.

Could I live without onions? Let me think. Living without these stinging bulbs would mean living without my earliest childhood memories. Those of chunks of translucent gold sizzling in butter on a heavy-arse cast-iron pan, in preparation for stew, or those of flaky purple onion skins piled high in a pot of boiling water, with eggs bobbing about in them, getting their colour on for Easter. Living without onions would mean living without the hair-like texture and mellow caramel taste of onions sautéed for ages in a skillet with a bunch of thyme, with a splash of white wine and a touch of sugar, then plopped over a dollop of fresh cheese spread lazily over a slice of dark bread. It would mean vainly looking for that zing in a pico de gallo salsa, or over a bed of orange slices and arugula. It would mean no steaming onion soup, no fragrant onion pie, no one emerging from the living room, looking to see “what’s cookin’”, at the earliest stages of the preparation of pretty much any meal, when translucent chunks of gold sizzle in butter on a different pan in a different kitchen…

Sure, I could live without onions, but I’d miss them sorely. As it happens, I already do. Having read The Novice Gardener’s post reminded me that it’s been ages since I made French onion soup or caramelised onions, and with autumn just around the corner, I think now is the ideal time to pay homage to the humble bulbs of the earth that form the building block of most of our cooking.

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