Articles / Onion Nostalgia

Onion Nostalgia

Published May 17, 2019

When I was a kid, there was a bit of a fuss about Bermuda onions, a seasonal treat that arrived in the spring. We’d make them (well, my mother would) with scrambled eggs, and butter—natch, as olive oil was not that easy to find or popular among non-Mediterraneans back in the day. This was a serious treat: Slow cooked onions, incredibly sweet, with fast-cooked eggs.

Fast forward, oh, fifty years. OKAY, sixty. Bermuda onions have all but disappeared in our markets, replaced by “Spanish” and Vidalia onions, which seem to me tasteless by comparison.

But thanks to my partner Kathleen and her family, I go to Bermuda with some regularity now. And although the local agricultural scene is not what it was (or, I should say, will be: people are working on this), there are some crops that are easy to find this time of year: greens of all kinds, phenomenal, big-flavored potatoes and carrots, better-than-decent tomatoes, and onions.

These are spring onions, thin-skinned, green-stalked, and fresh. Sweet enough for some people to eat raw (not me, sadly, but I’d like to), sweet enough so that they caramelize quickly, sweet enough to cook with scrambled eggs and produce Proust-like dreamy memories.

In the intervening lifetime, though, I’ve developed a “new” favorite onion-featuring dish: pasta with slow-cooked onions, which should not be mentioned without thanking the late Marcella Hazan, who (as far as I know) first codified the dish.

It’s a toss-up as to which is the better three-ingredient dish, the egg/butter/onion or the pasta/olive oil/onion. But I made the second for my daughter Emma and her husband Jeffrey, Kathleen, and me the other night: three fat (say three inches across) onions, sliced thin, cooked until jammy (longer than for the eggs; maybe a half hour) in abundant olive oil, with salt and pepper and over pasta, about a pound for the four of us, and man! Is that good.

Customs frowns on self-importing, sadly, or I would have brought a case home. But we’ll have spring onions of our own soon enough (those of you in the Southwest already do), and I strongly recommend trying this dish, even if you can’t get onions from Bermuda.

One more thing: I’m on the Benefit Committee for the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe’s “Feast for the Books.” Proceeds from this annual culinary fundraiser benefit homeless New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. More info here; I hope you’ll check it out. Many of you know what a great organization Housing Works is—and for those of you who don’t know, now you do!

Enjoy your onions, and your weekend,


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