Raw onions are the best food. Let me explain.

Eight years ago, I spent my first 48 hours in the United States being driven to the suburbs of New Jersey by an acquaintance of my fathe...


Eight years ago, I spent my first 48 hours in the United States being driven to the suburbs of New Jersey by an acquaintance of my father. In his eagerness to familiarize me with the superiority of his (and now my) surrogate nation, he took special care to show me the foundational institutions that he believes made America great: the colossal doors leading to greatness. access to Mycenae, New Jersey. , the Woodbridge Shopping Center; a dunkin ‘donut store; the tube outside a TD bank behind the wheel that sucks checks. Pride shone in his eyes, but he grew more and more irritated when I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for the iced coffee and donuts. (I didn’t have the courage to tell him that Dunkin ‘also has outposts in New Delhi, the city I left behind.) It wasn’t until I came face to face with a tower pomegranate-sized red onions as I walked through the produce section at a Wegmans later in the day as I felt my detachment to this new country starting to wane a bit.

I’m a grotesquely picky eater, a term that’s applied much more often to rowdy toddlers than to people my age. I am a vegetarian and eat exactly three vegetables. I can tolerate some dairy products, but still have to suppress vomiting at the sight of yogurt. The sweet, sickly smell of a banana politely makes me apologize and flee the room.

When I was a restless toddler my mom, who was unemployed, trying to care for a small child and studying for exams, found that the only thing I would eat without gagging was something my grandfather. mother also preferred: a plain roti, accompanied by fine chopped red onions sprinkled with salt and sprinkled with lemon juice. Later, over the years of the boarding school in india the thing that kept me sane was looking forward to lunch on thursday, while alongside rajma chawal we were given very thin slices of onions that had been marinated in salt long enough so that they are half dissolved. (My love for onion does not include white and yellow varieties or Cipollinis. To me and my infinite rigor, they are just pale, muddy water-filled suitors that contain neither astringency nor bite from their red cousins.)

In your early twenties, I lived in a basement apartment, where my “kitchen” consisted of a mini-fridge, a rickety folding table, an inexpensive knife, and a plastic cutting board. It was here that I invented whole meals around red onions in combinations that I can only call impious and decadent. I dipped slices of salted red onions in Maggi Hot & Sweet spicy tomato sauce and stuffed them between well-buttered slices of white bread. I ate them wrapped in the rubbery mat of a slice of Kraft American cottage cheese. I ate them soaked in olive oil and labneh. In Indian restaurants, with my somewhat horrified American friends, I would ask for onions, green peppers and salt on the side and eat them with my eyes closed throughout the meal.

When cooked, the onion is a sturdy and graceful supporting element that allows the dish to quietly take center stage. But eaten raw, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, a bitter alchemy transmutes its heat into an experience so intense that a single bite contains a whole sensory universe. I cannot conceive of greater pleasure than biting into a slice of raw red onion and being suspended for a few seconds in a cocoon of sensation: the sound of the primordial crunch as my teeth sink into it, even as it shoots rockets of discomfort into my nostrils.

I am fully aware that confessing my love for raw onions is almost like revealing myself as a believer in a marginal conspiracy theory on YouTube. “But what about, you know. …? ” is the bewildered reaction I often get when sharing this information, due to the obvious associations that onions have with bad breath and other violations of civilized society. The way we eat now is tainted with a certain sterility that we demand from our food – stripped of all its origins, smells, textures. But whether you peel it, dice it, wipe away the sticky tears it causes, or rub your fingers to remove its stubborn scent, the onion reminds you every step of the way that it’s alive.

My new apartment has a kitchen, and I’ve learned to do things with food that go beyond knowing how to cut onions. I earn enough to occasionally order food at a restaurant without worrying about whether it will leave me with no money for a MetroCard. But during the winter months of 2020, when the weather slowed down to a thick, tarry mud, it was my deranged way of eating onions that kept me sane and nourished, especially on days when a enormous discouragement attacked each of my attempts to live normally.

There were times when I could only drag myself into three-day-old clothes to stand on the counter, knife in hand, ungainly dice an onion, dip it in salt, and devour it with white bread. – a combination that still produced a burst of freshness and sensation so acute it made my toothache. On days like this, the simple act of shining through the tears wrung by those prickly talismans, once meant to protect us from the evils of another world, gave me a burst of vitality. Tasting the stinging sharpness felt like I was borrowing some of their liveliness, at a time when mine was nowhere to be found.


Iva Dixit is associate editor at New York Times Magazine.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Raw onions are the best food. Let me explain.
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