Wednesday, October 15, 2014

French Onion Soup

Onions are a thing of beauty, aren't they? No? You think they are too mundane to be beautiful? They have such a humble exterior, hiding away those lovely, thin layers.

In a passage I found so memorable in the book The Supper of the Lamb, Robert Farrar Capon writes about how to meditate on an onion. "Take one of the onion (preferably the best looking),... and sit down at the kitchen table.... To do it justice, you should arrange to have sixty minutes or so free for this part of the exercise. Admittedly, spending an hour in the society of an onion may be something you have never done before.... Onions are excellent company."

Capon considers the onion methodically, first the outer skin, which is "one of the driest things in the world.... smoothly and thinly dry, suggesting not accidental dessication, not the withering due to age or external circumstance, but a fresh and essential dryness. Dryness as an achievement, not as a failure. Elegant dryness. Deliberate dryness."

"For all [the skins'] understated display of wealth, they bring you to one of the oldest and most secret things of the world: the sight of what no one but you has ever seen. This quiet gold, and the subtly flattened sheen of greenish yellow white onion that now stands exposed, are virgin land."

The onion is a creation of God, Capon writes as he finishes a ten page exposition of its parts. "Hopefully, you will never again argue that the solidities of the world are mere matters of accident.... Perhaps now you have seen at least dimly that the uniqueness of creation are the result of continuous creative support, of effective regard by no mean lover. He likes onions, therefore they are.... With Peter, the onion says, Lord, it is good for us to be here. Yes, says God. Very good."

You may not not have an hour to spend contemplating onions, but making French onion soup takes a similar time investment. After chopping eight onions, they need to cook down for 35 minutes, then the liquids are added and another 15 minutes go by. All in all, an hour is about how long it takes to create French onion soup. But it is well worth it, as you know if you have every tasted homemade French onion soup. It is a worthy homage to the humble, but beautifully created, onion.

This dish is part of our Wednesdays with Donna Hay blogging group, and the recipe is here. If you want to join us, next week we are making chickpea and roast pumpkin soup from Off the Shelf. Visit the others in my blogging group to see if they liked the recipe: Margaret from Tea and Scones, Gaye from Laws of the Kitchen, and Chaya from Bizzy Bakes.

Are you in awe of any food item?

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