I like to go adventuring. Small adventures or large, I’m happy if I see something new and arresting. If I have a frisson of … something… delight, wonder, whatever you want to call it. With a companion, adventuring’s the best.
So today I was a little down. Finished my work for the day, marking up an ancient, earnest screed of colonial history with a dull Sharpie, no adventure in sight. No companion either, with Gil bearing down on his writing, Maud gallivanting with a friend, other people at jobs or vacations. Only me and Oliver, and I’m not customarily invited on his adventures.
There were always the onions. I had already withdrawn to my cool underground kitchen lair to make a batch of pesto for dinner.
But now, no adventures to the fore, the onions presented themselves as a project.
I’d never grown onions before. This summer, they grew incredibly fast. I put them out to harden on a plastic tarp under the brutal sun because I thought that’s what you do with them.
Now to pickle them.
I had a recipe, from The Savory Way by veggie-genius Deborah Madison, that I’d made before, calling for red onions, but mine are white and from my taste test much tarter and tangier than the recipe’s onions, which turn a delicate ballet-worthy shade of pink.
Much more of a crying-over onion.
I trimmed them up, brushed the dirt from their whiskered bottoms. Sliced them in crisp rounds. Listened to Alejandro Escovado’s Castanets on the radio, a song so good it could make you cry.
The recipe calls for boiling water splashed over the onions in a colander, after which you pack the rings in jars and douse them in a vinegar solution.
Who is not filled with a sense of well being upon viewing a fresh gallon jug of Heinz white vinegar?
Of course the success of the enterprise lies largely in the containers — all preserving being an opportunity to show off your beautiful canning jars. I picked up these pint-size blue Mason beauties in Wisconsin this summer, together with their matte zinc lids.
Reviewed the recipe thus far with Oliver. Placed the onions on the brick floor, just under his snout. He has been known to sample vegetables.
I think impassive is the word for his expression.
When I politely suggested he take another look, his reaction was subtle but firm. Ears now aloft. Are you kidding me?
The recipe includes accoutrements that it seems have nothing to do with flavor and everything with appearance. The perfect bay leaves.
The thyme I rescued from my garden, burning my bare feet to get there, wading through the weeds and getting dive bombed by a purple dragonfly. An adventure of sorts.
Traces of onions have been found in Bronze Age archaeological sites alongside date stones and the remains of figs. Workers who built the pyramids may have been fed radishes along with onions, a bitter repast for bitter work. Roman gladiators got onion juice rubdowns. In the Middle Ages wise men prescribed onions to facilitate both bowel movements and erections — one stop shopping.
But I’ve got to get back to my kitchen adventure and pour the vinegar elixir over the slices.
Not the adventure I’d hoped for today, but perfect nonetheless.