There are dozens of ways to measure the collective American appetite: the number of McDonald’s per capita, the percentage of food consumption rooted in boredom rather than hunger, even the average scent of any given breeze and its similarity to the stench of fried grease and smoked meat. But one of the best methods of measurement is taking a cross section of food writing and laying it out on the table like a bone-in ham on Christmas Day. It is hard not to notice the ever-growing genre, spanning everything from scientific cookbooks and joyful recollections of childhood dishes to long-form essays using culinary language to mask more serious subject matter. Each meal brings with it another dissertation offering thoughtful insights into the food industry or heartfelt devotions to a field consistently underrated as a basic service industry. Food writing, it seems, is where we direct our romantic impulses when we are too uncomfortable expressing them toward another person.
I have no interest in waxing poetic about food.
I am no food connoisseur, nor am I someone completely ignorant of cuisine and its sillier elements. I know tidbits, anecdotes and stilted aphorisms. I know just enough to have stupid opinions on food and a willingness to defend them to the death.
I have so many irrationally strong opinions on food, dear reader. You might want to strap in.
There are a lot of ways this sort of article could be framed to justify its writing. Maybe strong, bad opinions can serve as a reminder of all the good things there are to be found in food, of the small joys of taste and nuance. Maybe a particularly annoying take on the best brand of ketchup, for example, can inspire you to relish every aspect of a meal.
I am not writing in the interest of improving nutritional discourse. I am writing to air my noxious opinions on food because I enjoy arguing about the little things and, for the briefest moment, pretending that these sorts of bull-headed arguments are absent on a larger scale where the stakes and implications are much more serious. Demanding that restaurants offer holiday dishes so I can get that sweet 80% discount after the holiday passes offers a short respite from whatever nonsense Sean Hannity is spouting. The largest implications of this sort of food-centric argument are damaging the reputations of bananas, steak, onions, etc.
Speaking of which, I have some thoughts on our friend, the onion.
Have any of you noticed the sheer number of onion varieties clogging the produce section of grocery stores today? I am no onion dunce, but until a few weeks ago I thought there were just two kinds of onion: white and red. An easy dichotomy, like Team Edward and Team Jacob or people named Daniel and the people who thought the “Damn Daniel” vine was funny. Since then, however, my world has been thrown into disarray by the revelation of other onion varieties. If you come from a similar vacuum of onion knowledge, you would be surprised to learn that red and white onions are just the tip of the iceberg: yellow onions, Cipollini onions, sweet onions, shallots (whose fraudulence has driven them to remove “onion” from their name, those slippery little liars), pearl onions, scallions, spring onions, and leeks.
My friends, this is a shameful variety of onions. We are embarrassing ourselves.
Do you know why we have never had the fortune of hosting alien visitors, of looking up to the sky one morning and seeing the metallic sheen of a spaceship descending? It is because any reasonable, intelligent species can gaze upon our society and see not nine, not eleven, but ten kinds of onion in our gardens, our kitchens and our store shelves. If I were an alien looking down on this mess, I would turn my ship right around and come back in 800 years when the human race will have learned to get their affairs in order.
Did you have to google what a shallot was? No? I did and I felt embarrassed for having done so. I rarely think of myself as an arrogant person, but I will walk in a Game of Thrones naked parade before I allow myself to be embarrassed by an onion again.
Although I read up on this onion abomination on various websites, I was particularly outraged by an article from The Spruce. The author of the article, Danilo Alfaro, laments the fact that leeks and shallots are underappreciated in the United States. He fails to mention that this underappreciation is wholly deserved. This is a great opportunity for us to get our act together and cut them out entirely. These straggler onions are the boyfriend that has denied us the respect we deserve. They are the long-distance friend that pokes you on Facebook without ever talking to you. They are That Family Member, located in the distant branches of the family tree, always making weird posts on social media and sending you emails with Minion memes. It is time to cut them out of our lives, America.
Sweet onions? Green onions? Spring onions? Hey, Onion Nerds, have you ever heard of sugar? Have you realized that green onions are just onion veal? Are you confident that spring onions are real and not a silly type of onion I invented to demonstrate the frivolity of the ingredient? These onions are the height of gluttony. If there is a God, they surely look down upon our wasteland of onion excess and weep with shame.
I am willing to admit fault when it comes to the yellow onion. As the most common onion in the United States’ annual output, the yellow onion is an apt replacement for the white onion and I take no issue with it. I do, however, take issue with the way the Alfaro describes it: “the workhorse, the staple, the everyday brown beauty.” I can tell you with absolute certainty that none of these words can ever be used to describe an onion. Elsewhere in the article, he refers to onions as “a culinary luxury” and “humble.” Onions are a luxury in that they are food and we have access to them at nearly any given moment. But, dear reader, onions are and never will be humble. Onions are the most arrogant, insufferable ingredient of all, because they know they have us wrapped around their weird, papery onion fingers. It is time we brought respectability back into the kitchen. It is time to cut out any onion that is not red or yellow. Free yourselves from the burden of onion indecision and never look back.