It is no secret that I truly enjoy being in a kitchen…the chemistry, the flavors, the creativity, the textures and colors….it is a place of the senses, of poetry and music and love and prayer.
There have been several things I have wanted to master over the years. Most of the time, I am attracted to those things that take a certain amount of focus while also faring far better if one trusts more and thinks a bit less. Juggling falls into that category. It turns out that caramelizing onions does too.
The instructions I read before attempting to invite an onion into this other stage of being were fairly simple… melt a bit of butter in a heavy bottomed pan or skillet, layer in the onions, watch them, listen to them, and stir now and again. Listen to the onions! While taking care of other elements in the meal, also keep an ear to the conversion happening in the pan. Watch the onions! Note the changes that happen with time and chemistry…let it happen…but watch for the moment, the moment where the next step would be one too far.
But, all of this takes time…about 45 minutes. In the grand scheme, that is a pretty quick bit of wonder. However, in terms of cooking on the stove, that asks a slow and steady patience. An in-between-time patience that can be filled with other wanderings…into the music that might accompany my dinner preparation…into a review of the day that has happened…into the grace and memory of a meaningful friendship…into my list of what I’d like to get done…into the company of God as I wonder about the next adventure that awaits.
All of this while also remaining present to the onions in the pan.
This space, this time of contemplative, spacious, attention, is a place where much happens, I think. It speaks to my experience of silence being a fullness, not an absence…like light is a fullness of color. In some ways, it is here that I feel most me…focused and loose in the molecules…present and exploring…being and creating…still and thoroughly alive.
For Octavio Paz, poetry lives here too.
Between what I see and what I say,/ between what I say and what I keep silent,/between what I keep silent and what I dream,/between what I dream and what I forget,/poetry.
Surely much of what is most intimate, most inside blooming-drawing out, happens here. The moment of a flower’s first petal unfolding into spring’s sunlight, the grounding feel of a friend’s hand, the coming together of olive oil, vinager, lemon, and mustard into a dressing, the coming together of information into new understanding, noticing a hummingbird…
All of this coming together in an aching nearness of God, in a gentle waft of butter and onion.