Keep on chopping...
Seeking refuge in onions on another bad news day from Poland
I woke up to the news that Russia’s state-run gas company had halted shipments of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria, as an eff-you to their support of Ukraine. Here in Poland, the shut-off translates into just under half of its natural gas consumption, mostly for heating and cooking, according to this New York Times story.
It remains unclear how this latest move by the Kremlin will impact the cost of natural gas throughout Europe. But the news rattled me, as it’s one more reminder of the unpredictability — and proximity of this war.
As volunteers cooking for Ukrainian victims of war, we arrive each morning without a heads up on the menu or that day’s to-do list. We are happy to do what we’re told because we are united in our mission to feed Ukraine for as long as it takes.
But I must admit I felt like I caught a break when I was asked to chop a few ten-pound bags of onions.
It’s true; chopping onions makes me cry, every single time. The sulfur compounds inevitably make their way into my clothes and in my hair, resulting in a wretched perfume. And yet, I get grounded with an onion as if I were on my yoga mat. When raw, it’s sharp, but when gently cooked in butter, oil or bacon fat, it mellows into sweet jam. It is happy to be the lead actor in a dish or be part of a supporting cast. And it reminds me, every time, of its power of simplicity.
When we chop onions, we are scratch cooking, even if it’s dinner for a few thousand. We are creating a temporary oasis. We are not thinking about the headlines and the death and destruction of war. With onions, we are starting anew.