When standing in the kitchen, chopping onions and fighting back tears, it’s hard to imagine that this layered vegetable can be sweet. Yet, throw some into a pan with olive oil on low heat and you’ll witness magic in action.
The slow process of heating the onion breaks down its cell walls making them softer and sweeter. This process is called ‘pyrolysis’ and goes something like this:
- Heat breaks down chemical compounds of the cooked food. Since all food contains sugar, the heat breaks it down into smaller units leading to browning and sweetening.
- All living things, including plants, break down sugar for energy. Your average medium-sized onion contains 9 grams of sugar.
- Sugars in plants and our body can be found in various pairs. The cooking process breaks the pairs down from polysaccharides (couple) into monosaccharides (single).
- Since much of the cell structure is made up of starches, which are polysaccharides, the slow cooking process breaks down the wall structures of cells, releasing sugar, which then sweetness the food and softness its texture.
If you apply this sound logic to a bigger organism, like humans, this idea can teach us that in life “patience is a virtue”.
The famous Sufi poet, Rumi once used a chickpea metaphor to describe his enlightened life:
“The whole of my life
is summed up in these three phrases:
I used to be raw
Then I was cooked
I am on fire.”
The thing about being cooked is that life makes you sweet, because you learn to handle the setbacks of life with an open heart and mind. And those who come in contact with you can learn this skill and apply it in their wn life.
Today our everyday lives are rushing past us at the speed of light. There is so much to accomplish, so much to do, so much to see that life eventually becomes a frenzy, filled with anxiety, demands and needs. By taking a slower approach and letting ourselves simmer in time it takes to accomplish goals will help us softly approach hardships.
Something simple as doing 10 minutes of yoga or meditation in the morning can make all the difference. And taking baby steps towards any big goal will yield progress and satisfaction. After all, what’s the point of rushing through life, shouldn’t it be enjoyed?
Here’s to caramelizing our onions in the kitchen and our lives outside of it.