Between the fall odor of the harvested onion fields and the smoke from the wildfires raging across the American West, the air smelled like perfectly baked onions as the sun went down a few weeks ago.
The reason was sad—so much destruction–but the aroma of wood smoke tinged with onion was enough to make my mouth water.
As a young bride, I learned how to bake onions. Bud, the manager of the run-down trailer park where my first husband and I lived, shared the recipe with us. I was skeptical to begin with because Bud was the kind of man who couldn’t have found his way around a kitchen to save his mortal soul. But he knew grilling inside out, and he’d perfected the onion recipe on the barbecue before his wife Norma adapted it to the oven.
Cut the tough ends off a plain old yellow cooking onion and strip off the papery outer layers, With a vegetable peeler, make a round hole in the middle of the onion as if you are taking the core out of an apple. Cut a plug about an inch long off each end of the core you get from the onion and discard the rest or save it to use in another recipe.
Mix a tablespoon or two of softened butter or margarine with a generous pinch of garlic powder. You can’t overdo the garlic, believe me. Stuff the butter and garlic into the onion, and plug up the ends with pieces of the core you cut out. Smear any leftover garlic and butter on the outside of the onion. Wrap the onion in foil and seal the edges. You might as well do several at once, especially if you have a crowd to feed.
Bake your onion in the oven at 350 degrees, or at the temperature you’re baking the rest of your dinner. A half hour or forty minutes at 350 is about right, depending on the size of your onion. Give the onion a poke with a fork to find out when it’s tender.
The garlic and butter take the zing out of the onion. It gets so mellow you can munch on the thing like an apple. Even I can, and I’ve got acid reflux like crazy.
My first husband and I practically lived on baked onions that summer after he fell ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease. There was a place by the highway near our trailer park where the produce trucks went around a curve and lost the excess off their loads. Potatoes, onions, cucumbers, roasting ears, all free for the taking.
It’s funny how an aroma can trigger a memory. The smell in the air got me to thinking about baked onions, and I could almost taste their sweet, snappy flavor in my mouth, as if I’d gone back in time thirty years. They’re like onion rings, without the breading and grease.
Jo Elizabeth Pinto was among the first blind students to integrate the Colorado public schools in the 1970’s. In 1992, she received a degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. While teaching students how to use adaptive technology, she earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Management. These days, she freelances as an editor and a braille proofreader.
As an author, Pinto entertains her readers while giving them food for thought. In her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she draws on personal experience to illustrate that hope is always an action away.
Pinto lives in Colorado with her husband and their preteen daughter, her brindle black Labrador guide dog Spreckles, and an aging cat called Sam-I-Am. To find out more about her and her three books, including an award-winning novel and two memoirs, please visit her author Website at https://www.brightsideauthor.com.