The truth and onions

The truth is like an onion.  It’s wrapped in a tough skin that’s hard to get through.  Once you get the skin off, you realize it comes in layers, and you can peel them back one by one.  As with an onion, getting to the truth will make you cry.  Your eyes will burn, and your nose will begin to run.  The truth turns you into a weepy, snotty mess.  The truth hurts.

Ever see anyone eating an onion like an apple?  Ever see anyone in a restaurant order a plate of raw onions for their meal?  People eat pickled onions whole, especially pickled baby onions.  Some people put raw onions on burgers or in a salad, but that’s the point:  if you’re not going to consume the truth in small bits or pickled baby-bites, you’ll need to cook it, cure it, and add other ingredients before you’ll actually want to digest it.

Onions aren’t usually the main ingredient of a dish.  Onions are “aromatics,” the kind of flavorful vegetables that can withstand a lot of cooking and not lose their flavor and aroma.  Aromatics impart their flavors to the things around them.  Other aromatics are carrots, green peppers, and celery, but these aren’t like the truth.  People love eating carrots and green peppers and celery raw, though frequently with dip (closer to truth territory).  But an onion?  Like the truth, an onion is one tough cookie.

To really fit into a dish, onions need to be cooked over a high flame.  As with the truth, turning up the heat makes the onions transparent.  The heat dilutes and transforms their power, so that they flavor the actual centerpiece of the meal – a hunk of meat or fish or chicken or tofu or green beans or spinach.  That’s what you ordered the meal for.  We even use onions to flavor water – but you don’t get the soup for the onions.  You get the soup for everything else that’s in it.  Even French Onion Soup is that way.  The French get it for the clear, rich, dark meat broth and the sweet flavor of caramelized onions.  Americans get it for the bread and cheese.  We expect onions in our meals, but we want much more.

And so the truth is like an onion – its flavors are so concentrated that they startle and burn and choke you.  Truth by itself isn’t something we really want – nor will the truth alone sustain us.  The problem with truth is never the onion-like nature of the truth.  It’s how the truth is cooked up and served.  Done properly, the truth can be part of a very fulfilling, nutritious, and pleasurable experience.  When it’s not, it’s the chef’s fault.


Filed under food, truth hurts

6 responses to “The truth and onions

  1. michelle

    I tend to agree… but I’m way more partial to the assault of garlic.

    Its variety of allium kicks ya. It soothes ya. It heals ya. And it will remind you for at least 12hrs just how much it’s doing by keeping it’s flavor on your tongue.

    Onion kind of goes away after a couple of hours for me. 🙂

    • john

      I once thought garlic was absolutely essential, in massive quantities. I still tend to cook that way. But every once in while experiencing things without garlic is eye-opening. I recommend garlic-celibacy in small, measured doses.

  2. michelle

    You are right – when food without garlic is eaten it’s a completely different experience. But you know, at least with the fusion cooking I do, it’s almost impossible for me to omit the stuff…

    My main influences are Chinese & Italian – how does one eliminate garlic from those 2 cuisines? 😀

    Garlic celibacy, I love it. Not necessarily the idea, it just sounds somewhat exotic, hah.

    • john

      In general, I believe that there’s no such thing as too much garlic. Then again, I used to say that about coffee, too, but I have learned better. But garlic, I am still usefully addicted to. It’s an aphrodisiac.

  3. michelle

    I used to feel the same way about coffee, too! Then something happened, I’ve heard it referred to as “aging”, & now my tolerance for the beverage is a mere shadow of its former existence. 🙂 Some Seattle-ite I am, hah.

    I believe you’re right… there is NO such thing as too much garlic. I have found my personal limit for onions, though, sadly. If peppers & garlic & leeks & scallions & shallots are to follow… then remove me from the skewer & dip me ‘cuz I’m done.

  4. Kavita

    “You want the truth?!? You can’t handle the truth!!”

    It’s so true. I find the older I get the less truth I seek. I naturally “get it” much more but I seek it less. Waiting for a mid-life?!? Ugh.

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