Onions seem to be notorious for both their foul smell and their ubiquitous correlations to life itself.
As I was in the midst of my bi-weekly refrigerator purge and pantry clean-out, I discovered a couple of moldy onions hanging out in the middle of a bag, threatening to spoil the whole bunch. I always thought that it was a bad apple that was notorious for this task, but I digress.
After tossing the offenders, I decided that I would heroically save the rest by chopping them up immediately and freezing them. My hasty decision left our entire apartment reeking of onions for hours.
I made the mistake of putting a couple of them in a container in the fridge, expecting that I would be using them within the next day or so. Despite my best efforts to rid the house of onion odor, every time I open the refrigerator, I am knocked over by the smell of raw onions again.
Onions are weird. In their raw form, they are pretty offensive. They smell bad, they make you cry, and they come wrapped in a skin that is simultaneously paper thin and impossible to remove.
The experience of breaking an onion down into something useable is so miserable that there is an entire industry dedicated to mitigating the pain of doing so. Rather than deciding that we cannot deal with onions, we’ve simply managed to find a better way to be around them. Side note: onion goggles are legit the best thing ever invented.
But once they are peeled, chopped and cooked, they add a unique dynamic to any dish. Leave the onion out of something and the difference is noticeable. The flavor just isn’t quite complete. These awful little buggers have managed to worm their way into necessity.
They are also no stranger to being turned into life metaphors either. From their many layers to the way they survive such a thin skin, it seems that onions are constantly being compared to something in life.
As the faint odor of onions permeates my home, I think about pain and the way it lingers long after the offense has been committed. There are some pains that still hurt me as much as they did when they first happened, like breaking up with my boyfriend earlier this year, or the way my mom treated me as a teenager. In their memories, those moments are likely all but forgotten, but I can remember the sting of their words as though it just happened. Tears prick my eyes the same way an onion does the moment my body realizes what is happening.
I think about how hurt and betrayed I have been by Alissa’s father and his family and all of the abuse we have endured the past two years. It is bitter in the same way an onion tastes when you bite into it raw. Like the onion, they have no idea how distasteful their behavior has been to me.
As much as that lingering pain still reminds me of the hurt I’ve endured, it also serves to remind me that something better is coming.
When you cook an onion down, the smell begins to change. The fumes stop hurting, but they are still there. Although the lingering scent of cooked onion isn’t much better, the way the onion has changed makes a difference. It adds flavor and texture. It gives character to the foods that you make. So many of my favorite meals begin with sautéing an onion. It’s no wonder that I am able to draw this parallel with life.
I think back on the most painful times in my life and wonder if I would change them. I almost always come to the conclusion that I would not. If we remove the pain from our pasts, we become flavorless and flat. The experiences we have, both good and bad, are what build our character.