Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Onion

Every Saturday morning, I get a poetry newsletter from Tweetspeak Poetry.  It is one of the highlights of my sit with a cup of coffee and see the poetry and poetry related links that they put in the newsletter.
This morning it was Pablo Neruda's poem- Ode to the Onion.

by Pablo Neruda
luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone
and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.

Last summer I stole some onions from out community garden neighbor.  I thought they had abandoned their plot so I took two...maybe three.  Imagine my surprise when I saw the whole plot harvested a few days later.  It really was glorious to pull those onions out of the ground and I know that I'll be planting some this summer.  Maybe someone will steal some of mine and I will feel better.  Most of my patty pan squash was lifted so I guess all's well that ends well. Or something like that.
Anyway, the poem came with a  recipe for French onion soup.

So I made some in our wok.  I need to look for a cast iron skillet at the thrift stores.  
Here is the recipe from Tweetspeak.

  • French Onion Soup
  • An old recipe from the Roman era, this French Onion soup goes well with cold days and Pablo Neruda's "Ode to the Onion."



    1. Bring a large cast iron pot to the stove and melt the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onions and stir well to coat. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and a few turns of freshly cracked pepper. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions have softened and a few strands are just beginning to turn golden.
    2. Reduce the heat to medium low. Toss in the bay leaf, cover, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes more. I like to check my onions at 20 minutes, just to be sure they’re not sticking to the bottom of the pan. For the remaining 10 to 20 minutes, come back occasionally to give the pot a stir. If your onions still aren’t done, be patient and give them more time. They’re done when the onions have become an almost creamy mound in the bottom of your pot. They will be slightly golden, but don’t need to be dark brown.
    3. Before moving on, heat your oven to 450 degrees and set out soup bowls on a sturdy baking sheet. Add the balsamic vinegar, thyme, and vegetable stock. It’s important that you taste the soup now and adjust the seasonings until it tastes just right to you. Simmer for 10 minutes more.
    4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with three slices of bread and a mound of cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and brown in spots.

    It took about 2 and a half hours to cook this and it was delicious.  I used smoked Gruyere to add to the taste and I used just regular thyme from a jar.

    I've had that ceramic serving bowl since before I was married.  My mother bought it for me at a pottery store in downtown Palo Alto.  It used to have a lid and matching bowls but they have gone the cracked way of pottery.  It's still my favorite serving bowl.

    We ate it with a lettuce, red onion, grape tomato, almond and goat cheese salad.

    I think that anything goes better with a little goat cheese.

    In Robert Farrar Capon's book The Supper of the Lamb:  A Reflection, he devotes a large section to cutting of onions and reflecting on it's beauty.  From the book.

    For somehow, beneath this gorgeous paradigm of unnecessary being, lies the Act by which it exists. You have just now reduced it to its parts, shivered it into echoes, and pressed it to a memory, but you have also caught the hint that a thing is more than the sum of all the insubstantialities that comprise it. Hopefully, you will never again argue that the solidities of the world are mere matters of accident, creatures of air and darkness, temporary and meaningless shapes out of nothing. Perhaps now you have seen at least dimly that the uniquenesses of creation are the result of continuous creative support, of effective regard by no mean lover. He likes onions, therefore they are. The fit, the colors, the smell, the tensions, the tastes, the textures, the likes, the shapes are a response, not to some forgotten decree that there may as well be onions as turnips, but to His present delight - His intimate and immediate joy in all you have seen, and in the thousand other wonders you do not even suspect. With Peter, the onion says, Lord, it is good for us to be here. Yes, says God. Tov, Very good.” 
    ― Robert Farrar CaponThe Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection

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