Patience is a virtue.
Virtue is defined as a behavior showing high standards.
Patience is important because it means staying committed to something, even when it becomes tedious or boring. Patience means a willingness to wait, perhaps even endure a negative experience without letting it control you, it involves both acceptance and tolerance. Patience is also a practice, like a muscle it gets easier the more you exercise. Although it may feel as if the world is accelerating much too fast to wait for anything, I encourage you to exercise your patience in a simple way, to start with the humble onion.
Growing up cooking in my parent’s kitchen, I understood that everything good starts with a single onion. Onions are the foundation of most recipes, they are delicious and add depth to any dish. However, the tragedy of the onion is that they are often the most overlooked portion of the recipe. Throw the onion in the pan for a bit and call it good. Not today. Proper caramelization requires time, energy and focus and can completely alter the resulting flavor of a dish. I invite you to pause, to take all the time necessary to cook an onion until it is perfectly caramelized and jammy, somehow both incredibly savory and sweet. Bathe your house in the wonderfully pungent smell of frying onions.
The task at hand is simple it requires only two ingredients:
1–2 Tbsp oil of choice, I prefer extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 onion of choice, I like yellow, peeled and cut through from the stem to the base, then sliced into strips
The only tools necessary are your favorite pan and your favorite spatula.
Use a medium-low flame to heat the oil, you will know it’s ready when you can tilt the pan and the oil moves with the consistency of water. Then add the onion and wait stirring occasionally to make sure the onion is not sticking to the bottom of the pan and that it is cooking evenly. Cook the onion with a low flame, adjust the heat to a lower temperature if it is burning or sticking to the bottom. The onion will turn translucent then light brown then it will take on a deeper golden brown color. You did it. For a whole onion this process might take an hour, maybe longer. If it feels like it’s taking forever for the onion to become deeply golden brown, good, you are exercising your patience, just keep monitoring the pan and stirring when need be.
How we live today requires almost constant motion, to keep up with the news that changes every hour, to keep up with science and technology that continue to advance at light speed with new discoveries and devices everyday. To live at the pace of life whilst keeping a smile on your face seems like a mere prerequisite to being “fulfilled.” We are so full of media and products being shoved down our throats, that we often come up for air feeling completely empty. Rarely is there actually time to sit still and be at peace. To pause. I am sure that I am not the first to tell you that the attention spans of adults and children alike are growing smaller. It will take some effort to experience this pause, this peace, but in it you may find some freedom.
Yes, caramelizing onions is extremely simple in fact you probably already knew exactly how to do this by yourself. There are no tricks, no hacks, just some time spent with the stove and the onion, and that is beautiful. The point of this exercise is to practice patience, set the stove low and slow, give yourself the extra time and space to really hone your focus on caramelizing the onion, no burns. It may be more of a challenge then you first thought, because the onion demands your undivided attention. It requests that you put down the distractions and wait for what may seem like an awfully long amount of time, but I can tell you that a perfectly caramelized onion truly is awe-inspiring.
As you enjoy this delight by itself or on top of another dish savor this moment, this time you spent creating something for yourself. Remember that the best things in life take patience.