Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Of sweet onions and getting older

This morning, in the onion fields around McAllen, Texas, workers began the task of planting the finest variety of onions ever engineered, the Texas 1015 SuperSweet.  The 1015 is known for its exceptionally low sulfur content, which translates into a wonderful sweetness that provides true onion flavor to a variety of savory dishes without the harsh, bitter tang for which inferior onions are so well known.

Agricultural researchers from Texas A&M University spent more than a million dollars developing the 1015.  The fruit of their research might well be the finest thing ever to come out of Texas A&M, and maybe Texas as a whole.  First grown commercially in 1983, the 1015 has become a popular choice for chefs and home cooks who know better.  In absolute terms, in the universe of all things, it is not much to look at.  It's still an onion, after all.  But as onions go, it's a sexy one.  Its easily peeled, yellowish skin gives way to a bright white, fleshy interior, sweet enough to be eaten like an apple, though I don't recommend it.  When sauteed, it develops a deep, rich caramel flavor suitable for the finest French onion soup, but it excels at both high-brow and low-brow applications.  With a high rate of reliability, the 1015 grows in the optimum onion shape, the oblate spheroid--somewhat like a sphere that has been flattened a bit.  In virtually every perceivable way, the 1015 blows the doors off the better-known Vidalia.

The 1015 gets its name from the day on which it is optimally planted, October 15.  (I guess when you spend a million dollars on an onion, you get all the details right.)  For that reason, for as long as I've known about them, I have felt a connection to the 1015.  I'm a 1015, too--10/15/1975, to be exact.  And when they mature and come into the marketplace in early spring, I feel my connection to them deeply.  I can pick one up and say, "Hey, I know when and where you started," and know that we were destined for this moment.

It might seem silly to devote so much energy to something so mundane as an onion.  As I get older, I realize, though, that one of the secrets to a life of happiness is in finding joy in the mundane, everyday things.  We can all get excited about a special trip to an exotic locale, or that first in-person glimpse of that famous monument, or those $500 shoes.  It takes the wisdom and modified perspective of older age to recognize that life is relatively empty of those Super Bowl moments, but full of little remarkable things that don't seem so remarkable at first glance--stepping back to admire a freshly mowed lawn, or hearing your child read aloud on his own for the first time, or chopping up an onion that was planted on your birthday.

No comments:

Post a Comment