It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. -Wendell Berry
When I first read these words–a well chosen epigraph–in Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey, I felt like I had finally picked up a book that I could, at long last, sink my reading teeth into. In their own way, both Wendell and Molly were describing the very things that had been on my mind for months: aimlessness, a lack of purpose and the constant question, “where is it all going?” While I realize writing about these issues can, to a certain extent, be more than a little depressing (believe me, there is true melancholy in a continuous stream of rejection letters or, even worse, the radio silence that now indicates rejection in a world where social niceties have been lost), these are the issues that, for better or for worse, informed my 30th year. Although this year began with purpose (to part ways with my dissertation) and success, it quickly descended into not only wondering what my next big challenge would be, but also how to translate Ph.D. skills into a “real world” job. I wish I could say that I got a batch of freshly baked wisdom for my birthday or that, from the safe distance of 10 days into my 31st year, I’m that much closer to figuring out the answers to these questions, but I think these are things that I’ll continue to grapple with until I no longer have the time to think about them (i.e. a time when I will be both pleasantly and gainfully employed). Or until I start working on the idea for a book that suddenly came to me on Thursday afternoon (!)–a much needed jolt to my parched ambition and desire for meaningful labor in my daily life.
Agrodolce Spring Onions, or Tiburon Onions
ever so slightly adapted from Kevin West’s Saving the Season
yields about 2 to 2 1/2 pints
As I mentioned above, the original recipe calls for one pound of spring onions that are about 2 inches in diameter. While I had about 4 spring onions that fit this description, most of my onions were very thin and not terribly round; to make up for this, I decided to harvest some of the heirloom onions (Crystal White Wax, a pearl or pickling onion) I’ve been growing in my window–mainly for the chives since I never expected real onions to materialize–to make up the difference. I used about 4 of these, which means that my jar of agrodolce spring onions comes in a variety of sizes. You should use what you have on hand and know that, for the most part, the recipe will still take the same amount of time–1 hour and 45 minutes. You want the liquid to reduce, at least a little.
Also, while West suggests a tart Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, because the Greek and I decided to drink some of this bottle, I ended up opening a bottle of a more tropical Sauvignon Blanc (Pongo from New Zealand) to make up the difference. I like the flavor, so again I would stress that you use what you like and/or have.
Unlike a lot of people, I don’t dislike raisins, but I will admit that I was surprised to see them in this recipe. I was a bit skeptical at first, but because the Greek’s mother had left us some raisins–a mix of sultanas, currants and dark–I decided to use them up. West calls for only golden, but I opted to do a mix. This just changes the flavor a little, but I find that I like the variety. If you are very anti-raisin, feel free to leave them out.
1 – 1 1/4 pound spring onions
3 cups tart white wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
1/2 cup white-wine vinegar
1/2 cup mixed raisins (sultanas, currants, dark)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1 dried red chili pepper
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
-Soak the onions in cool water for 5-10 minutes to soften their skins. Then, peel and cut off their stalks. Carefully cut off or scrape away the root, making sure not to sever the base. Leaving this intact will ensure that the onions remain whole while cooking.
-Place the onions in a medium saucepan and cover with wine and vinegar. Add the remaining ingredients and then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and bring the mixture to a simmer.
-Using a wooden spoon, stir gently from time to time so as to prevent sticking.
-While the onions are cooking wash and sterilize a wide-mouth pint jar (following the Blue Chair Jam method, I like to do this in the oven at 250 F).
-Cook for an hour and 45 minutes, or until the onions are tender enough to be pierced with a fork or knife.
-When the onions are ready, pack them into the prepared jar (depending on the size of your jar and the yield of your onions, you may have extra, which you can put in a small bowl to be used right away) and, using a funnel, pour the agrodolce sauce over them.
-If planning on using immediately, allow the jar to cool and then store in the refrigerator indefinitely. To process for shelf storage, make sure to leave 1/2-inch headspace and to clean the rim of the jar before sealing. Process in the oven at 250 F for 15 minutes.