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Recently, with the self-annihilative bravado of a real fanatic, I wrote an 800-word encomium on the thrill of consuming crimson onions uncooked, in all their pungent, elemental glory, for the New York Times Magazine’s Letter of Recommendation column.
Post-publication, I predicted that possibly a number of courageous readers would take part settlement. But I was anticipating largely simply reactions of distaste and disgust. What I didn’t anticipate was the overwhelmingly emotional response it elicited in so many for whom onions appeared to have unlocked an outpouring of recollections.
By the top of the primary day, the feedback part had remodeled right into a cathartic place, as readers from locations as diversified as France, Hungary, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Russia and Switzerland (to call a number of) swapped tales of all of the myriad methods through which their fathers, uncles, moms, grandfathers, grandmothers, husbands and lovers had eaten uncooked onions via conflict, famine, escape, the Depression and happier instances.
The thought for the piece started in January 2020. I was late assembly my buddy for lunch within the cafeteria on the 14th flooring of our New York workplace as a result of I had been selecting out the crimson onions from the salad within the buffet. We laughed on the purpose for my tardiness and I talked about, half-kidding, that my objective was to in the future write a deranged 800 phrases on how a lot I love the crimson onion. What began as a joke quickly grew to become a fixation.
Two months in the past, I went on a date (no less than I assume it was?) to an Indian restaurant, earlier than which I had been instructed by a number of involved buddies to keep away from indulging in my standard behavior of asking for onions on the aspect. It was sound recommendation, given with generosity. Did I take heed to it? Absolutely not.
Contrary to the warnings I’d been issued, my form dinner companion appeared unfazed, which I took as an indication to cease wavering and formally suggest the thought, sending my editor a frenetic e-mail later that night time. I pitched it as a Letter of Recommendation as a result of the column embodies a sure mischief, and it’s unafraid of going deep into the extra complicated of our human impulses (previous editions embody an ode to preserving a dozen snails as pets). In the identical spirit of chaos, my full-throated declaration of affection for this allium bought an enthusiastic approval from the journal’s editors, and the draft gathering mud for over a 12 months was all of a sudden out of my fingers.
Almost on daily basis of the previous three weeks since its publishing, I’ve woken as much as messages from readers confessing that they, too, discover the odor of bananas vile (you’re not alone!). Others have hesitantly tried my mixture of crimson onion, lemon juice and salt on white bread and emailed me to say I have modified their lives and their definitions of a noon snack (you’re welcome!). The occasional skeptic demanded to know which different two greens I can deliver myself to eat. (I will probably be revealing no such factor, however I hope they do proceed guessing!)
I started writing the column as an inside joke with myself, to softly ridicule each my self-imposed dietary limitations and my excessive dedication to 1 edible member of the Amaryllidaceae household. But the extra I considered it, the extra I started interrogating how very important part of my life crimson onions had been. Thinking on the butchery inherent within the preparation of onions — from the peeling aside of their fragile papery pores and skin and the violence of dicing the bulb to the scent that may linger on my fingers for hours afterward — led me to a distinct realization. To me, the best way the onion pulsates with sensation and discomfort in equal components is a reminder that to be alive is to enjoy each. To eat an onion uncooked is to expertise life itself on a microcosmic airplane, full with all of the detritus, essences and odors that make up its presence.
As novelists, philosophers, painters, poets and now over 4 hundred fervent commenters on The Times’s web site will let you know, a world with out onions is a colorless, tasteless and joyless one. And they’re proper.
Iva Dixit is a workers editor at The New York Times Magazine.