First, I must apologize quickly for starting this blog and then suddenly going silent for weeks. Let’s just say that life continues to get the better of me as I try to get settled into this new season, which makes for a lot of juggling and overwhelmingness. (I’m quite sure that is not a word. But you know what I mean.) I had a hard week, followed by a wonderful visit by my sister (details and pics to come in another post soon!), followed by another hard week with personal crapola to take care of. (Also not a word. Also effective in conveying to you exactly what I mean.) And now I’m slowly but surely getting my head above water once again. So, hello again!
Like I said, it’s been a hard couple of weeks. Transition is never easy. Any of you who have ever made a move, or started a new job, or gone to grad school, or simply tried a new brand of peanut butter knows what I mean. Even for someone remotely self-aware who has, admittedly, been through years of therapy and lots of bottles of wine (we’re talking about me here, people), transition continues to give me the gift of joy and pleasure in learning new things about myself. (There is some sarcasm there. Learning new things about oneself is not always joyous. Necessary, though, I feel.) So, today I was going to wax poetic about transition and learning about oneself and compare the whole process to that of peeling off the layers of an onion. Like…wait for it…the gorgeous onion pictured above.
But then last night something a tad embarrassing and equally wonderful happened. I decided to indulge in some healthy escapism by watching Twilight. I know, I know. To be honest with you the only reason I feel ever so slightly embarrassed is because this movie viewing occurred just hours after I watched The Hunger Games. I mean, the tween self in me was overjoyed at what I was letting it watch. I think there can be a healthy place in our lives for escapism, and what better way to do it than in the company of Katniss and Peeta and Bella and Edward? Alas, I do feel a little silly typing that. But I promised when I started this blog that I would be transparent here. No point in putting yourself out on the world-wide interweb and faking it.
I digress. At the end of Twilight, Edward and Bella go to the prom. As the camera pans around the room you see all these kids with happy faces simply having fun dancing without another care in the world. And it made me think back to my school dances and to high school, before we started thinking about the worries of college, when all we really thought of most of the time was what we were doing that minute, that day. I was talking about boys while eating under-baked cookies with my friends at lunch. I was at softball practice. I was having a random dance party at my friend’s house when we were supposed to be studying. I was getting in trouble for making sarcastic comments in the middle of choir practice. Some things just don’t change. I was worried about nail polish colors and Sadie Hawkins costumes and whether or not that boy liked me. Watching the kids faces at prom in Twilight last night made me long for the days when I only really thought of the day I was actually living in. Not the next day, or the day tens years from now. The older we get, the more life throws at us, the harder it is to do this. And last night made me realize I want to spend more time enjoying the prom and less time peeling back the layers of the onion. So, no waxing poetic today. Let’s just talk onions. Simple and sweet.
A few of my friends have told me that I changed their lives when I showed them how to cut an onion. I like to think their lives were changed the day they met me. I learned my onion cutting technique in a knife skills class, one of the first culinary classes I ever took. (Side note: If you’re wanting to get more comfortable in the kitchen and aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend taking a knife skills class. Upscale grocery stores, Whole Foods, Sur La Table and the like have culinary class open to the public so check out their schedules online.) I was making soup the other day, which happened to call for a few onions as many soups do, so I thought I’d snap a few pictures of cutting onions and tell you about it in case there’s anyone out there who could use a little help. I find that feeling overwhelmed in the kitchen can be greatly helped by feeling more comfortable with some basics. Cutting an onion definitely qualifies.
1) Start with an onion, a cutting board, and a sharp chef’s knife. Put the onion on its side. Cut off the end that has the paper-like stuff hanging off, pictured below. Cut about a centimeter or so from the end.
2) Place the onion on the now flat end. Cut the onion in half lengthwise starting at the top where the stringy things are coming out of the onion. I’m using very technical terms here.
3) Starting at the flat end, peel off the outer layer of the onion, being sure to keep the end with the stringy things intact so that the onion stays together when cutting. You’ll probably need to rip off the outer layer just before the intact end.
4) Lay the now-peeled onion half on its side. Hold onto the still-intact end of the onion. This is where you should hold the onion during each of the following steps. Start about a centimeter up from the cutting board and slice into the onion, rocking the knife back and force to get it to slice through close to the intact end, without going through the end. Be sure to keep it intact. Move up another centimeter and slice through again. Do this several times until you’re about a centimeter from the top of the onion half. You’ll have several horizontal slices.
5) Now you’ll make vertical slices. Start on one side of the onion, about a centimeter from the end and slice vertically, top to bottom, starting towards the end of the onion but don’t cut too close to the end. Be sure to keep the end intact, as pictured below. Move over another centimeter or so and slice again. Do this until you’ve reached the other side of the onion.
6) Now that you have horizontal slices and vertical slices, start at the end of the onion where you removed the papery end and chop the onion into pieces, top down, front to back towards the still-intact end of the onion.
7) Now you repeat the steps above with the other half of the onion. And tada! You’ve chopped an onion. You’ll also notice another kitchen trick below. I keep an empty bowl on the counter while I’m cutting vegetables and put any pieces that need to be discarded in that bowl as I go instead of needing to constantly throw things into the trash. This helps you move a little faster. When you’re finished prepping and chopping you can dump all the remains into your compost bin, should you be cool enough to be composting, or into the trash can. Don’t worry, I still don’t compost either. But I do recommend you look into it and consider it. I’m hoping to start collecting compost this summer once my grad program has started its community garden plot at the Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston. More on that later, I’m sure.
Happy onion chopping! I’m off to study.
Great to have you back in action … think your reasons are good enough to be accepted. *smile To chop an onion properly save a lot of tears and time. You have done a good exercise here with real good pictures – when I went in learning I did the finest chopped onion in the kitchen. I became even better than the chef’s with years on their necks. Well done!
Your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I had sheepishly picked up a copy of Twilight from my neighborhood book store yesterday. I’ve never read it, but heard good things… The chance for escapism pushed me past my embarrassment and up to the counter to buy it. I was feeling totally guilty for reading it, but now I’m glad to know I’m not alone. My husband scoffed when he discovered it on my night stand, but I don’t care. I can tell it’s totally worth it, and I’m only 50 pages in.
Also – great recommendation on composting. I’m lucky enough to live in San Francisco where they pick up special composting garbage bins right from your curb. It’s awesome, Boston should get on that!
Katie, I’m so glad to hear my timing was right on for you. I so hope you’re enjoying your indulgence. 🙂 I just moved here from San Francisco two months ago and I so miss the pervasive culture of things like composting! Please say hi to the city for me.
A useful tip I picked up from a science quiz on telly: if you rub lemon juice onto the blade of the knife you won’t get tears in your eyes from cutting onions. The lemon juice neutralizes the chemicals that irritate your eyes.
What a great idea! I haven’t heard of this before but you bet I’m going to try it next time I’m chopping onions…
We have the same knives, onion cutting techniques, and love for tweener books/movies (totes team peeta). I think we were destined to be friends. 🙂 I heartsies your post times a million, JT!
LG, you always make me smile. 🙂 XO!
Jen, You know just what to say. Thanks for the onion tips (I, a gastronomy student (I’m not a chef! haha) did not know to do this…I would just chop and not realize the beauty behind it, so thank you!) Also, if you have any compost scraps feel free to pass them along to me…I finished my at-home worm compost yesterday! Here’s to some nutrient-rich soil for our Fenway Victory Garden!!
Aubree, your worms can have my trash any day of the week. 🙂 Can’t wait to turn my brown thumb green! (I hope. Oh dear.)