thoughts while chopping onions

When the weather starts getting colder, there’s nothing better than some homemade onion soup. It requires chopping a lot of onions.

In “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius“, Dave Eggers talks about how best to chop an onion. I was never quite sure what method he and “Toph” decided was the best. I have my own way of chopping an onion, though probably not the best way. I nip off the top and the bottom skin, and then cut the onion in two pieces from top to bottom. After removing the remaining skin, I slice each half as thinly as possible from end to end. It works well enough.

Dave was just awarded one of the TED prizes for 2008, along with physicist Neil Turok and religious historian Karen Armstrong. Seems pretty well deserved, between his work with McSweeney’s, 826 Valencia, and the Voices of Witness oral history program. I don’t know if he still has much time for chopping onions. Hopefully so. Chopping onions is good for your soul.

When I was nine or ten years old, I used to watch the Galloping Gourmet (Graham Kerr) on TV. I don’t remember much of the show, except that he always seemed to have a good time and man could he chop onions. I couldn’t figure out how he chopped so fast without losing a finger.

According to (possibly apocryphal) stories, Jack Kerouac died while watching the Galloping Gourmet on television. It was 1969, he was 47 years old, and I was 8 or 9. Now it’s 2007, and I’m 47 years old. I like to think we were watching the program at the same time.

Now the onions make my eyes water. Maybe it’s the onions.

Onion and Potato Soup, based loosely off a recipe from Family Oven (which isn’t a half bad recipe site).

6 onions, sliced in your preferred way
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Olive oil
6 small or 3 medium potatoes, in small cubes
1 cup sherry
8 cups vegetable stock
Fresh thyme
Bay leaf
1 tsp. Paprika or other savory spice
salt, black pepper, red pepper, as desired

Using a heavy soup pot, sauté the onions over medium heat and until they are translucent. Add the garlic, spices, potatoes, and continue cooking and keep cooking until the potatoes soften.

The onions and potatoes will stick to the pot; just use a wooden spoon to stir the browned bits back in.

Add the sherry and deglaze the pan.

Add the stock and simmer for another half hour or so.

To make it a ‘french onion soup’ top with some gruyere and a crouton.


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