Onions and soup. Country living
She poured in the water and disappeared for an hour. When she returned, it was bubbling with onions, and she said, "This smells so good!" When we sat at the table a few hours later, eating spoonsful of sticky Emmental on my husband's sourdough bread soaked with the onion soup, my daughters told me that they love it only because I make it so good. Because onions taste so good in it. And for someone who was the biggest enemy of onions until 18, this was unbelievable information to hear.
I have been wondering why the French are ahead of Latvians in onion consumption? How come we do not make onion soup and onion tart every week, or even every month. Instead we fry them – deadly brown and bitter – as the basis of our sour cream sauce? The answer most probably lies in our heritage, no surprise there. I remember that onions and I were not the dearest friends. Not even acquaintances. We were enemies just by looking at each other, up until I was 18. I made an Indian dinner for my brother and his wife (this is what happens when you want them to like you) and it all started with frying onions, a task so disturbing to my senses at the time. But, that was the day things changed.
I fried them and tasted a piece, a second, third, and fell in love. There was a feeling of confusion and celebration at the same time as my mouth felt something it had never felt before – the sensation of fried onion melting on my tongue. I knew I had matured enough to love onions. But, onions and onion soup are another story. And it is true. We did not develop a love for onions for a simple reason – our parents did not make onions the star of any meal. They were usually a small part of something bigger – tomatoes in aspic, soup, sour cream sauce, or minced meat sauce (my school nightmare).
Things have moved on. And when the cold comes – with crispy -1°mornings, apple boxes hidden under blankets on the balcony, leaves on the trees changing from green to red – it is time to make soup. From pure chicken stock to hearty onion soup. An action that requires teamwork, fire, lots of moving around, and patience, and a family to eat it.
Story and pictures: Signe Meirane
Camera: Sony Alpha 7s