Okay. This post, even by my standards, is going to be a little bit… strange. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Please indulge the following thought-experiment:
Suppose, just suppose, that you and your date have snagged a prime two-top at the city’s buzzy-est new eatery. The lights are dim, the servers tony, and Chef Jeff’s challenging postmodernist cuisine has delighted the local press. The Michelin committee has already dispatched secret emissaries to grapple with the menu.
Your server arrives and makes… a highly unusual request.
The request is not immoral or laborious or especially disquieting, but it is vaguely indecorous and may represent a technical violation of municipal health codes. It gives you pause, but, nonetheless, you trust Chef Jeff and correctly interpret that the server’s request was not really framed as a request.
Two minutes later, your and your dining companion grin sheepishly at one another, slightly disheveled and perhaps blushing. Satisfied that the two of you have complied, your server drops off the amuses, places a 30 minute timer on your table, and activates it.
She tells you, warmly but succinctly, that when the timer goes off, there will be an onion tasting.
In the intervening half hour, you pick at your cranberry-hyssop pannacotta served within the aperture of an instant camera, (you press the button and this “film” thing comes out) you start to wonder about the onion tasting.
“I don’t know about this place,” your companion muses, “I think Chef Jeff has lost it. Ever since that Bengal called the Dulce De Leche “Caramel,” he’s almost daring the public to be worthy. Come on. First a bizarre pre-meal ritual and now… an ONION tasting? Like really, we’re about to EAT ONIONS?”
At precisely this moment, the dimer emits a single, discreet “Beep,” and instantaneously, the server arrives with two small, steaming test tubes. She smiles robotically, and declares, “soup.”
“Uh, I’m sorry, we’re doing the tasting menu, we were going to eat the onion thing.”
“If you will forgive me for reminding you,” the server retorts with that special emulsion of stern grace, “I didn’t say you would be eating onions. I just said that you would be tasting them.”
And with that, you stare, completely dumbfounded, at the two test tubes sitting in front of you, each containing a familiar deep brown broth, topped with, a crouton and a bit of Comte.
“But, dude, there is nothing in there but liquid, there is no On…”
And then it hits you. You miraculously start to TASTE onion. Just a bit, mind you, a bit of raw tinge around the edge of your tongue and that familiar, vague effervescence.
Just as you are starting to recognize the onion flavor coalescing in your mouth, you gulp down the contents of your test tubes, which do indeed contain beefy broth, acid, savory cheese and a bit of cripsy toasted bread…
“Dude! It’s French Onion Soup!! But the onion…”
“The taste of onion is already in your blood stream from something we didn’t actually EAT!”
“Oh, man, Chef Jeff is a GENIUS!” The smartphones come out.
Okay. Anyway. I think you guys know how my mind works. Because the above fantasy was the first thing that bounced around inside my head when I saw this:
Mkay. You understand where this is heading.
Onion Rubdown…skin off, 30 seconds, all around.
Waiting, waiting waiting.
I waited sixty minutes. Now, I didn’t get MUCH, but I did get… something. A hint, perhaps. If even. Not enough to flavor a soup, and not really enough to even register as a member of the allium family, but there was a taste in my mouth.
I had to be careful to avoid false positives. I had just enjoyed a peppery stir fry, and I had to make sure that the residual onion funk on my hands never once approached my face. But, who knows, after a large meal, there can be distractions from your stomach, the air (taste is something like 75% smell, you know)
I will, however, say this. Forgive me for the mild TMI, but the tops of my foot itch. Just the bridge, but constantly. I mean, borderline Caro Diario level of itch. A lot of mornings I’ll wake up with my feet just raw and bright red from how I’ve clawed at them all night. It’s not athlete’s foot, or any kind of fungus (I’ve seen a doctor) it’s a symptom of the extremely serious “D” thing I have to constantly worry about. (I have my glucose checked each year)
Anyway. The onion rub? My feet haven’t itched sense. Forget the soup.
I highly encourage you all to try this. In private. Or with someone you trust.
I’m not really sure if I’m ever bound to be a chef… anyone who has ever spent time in my apartment knows that I’m already a health inspector’s nightmare. But sometimes things come up, and it’s almost worth making a fool of yourself to try and learn something. Even if it means a strange smell and a wasted bit of produce.