My mom sautéed delicious onions daily, and whenever dining out, she'd say "double the onions, please."
After a long and difficult struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, my mom passed away on July 29, 2017. While I will miss her terribly, I’m also flooded with wonderful memories, and am relieved she’s finally at peace.
There are so many things I could talk about in my mom’s memory: her exquisite antique collection, the stunning home she designed and lived in with my dad for over 50 years, the 2,000 plus trees she was responsible for planting in our community, what a loving mother she was and so on . . . today I would like to share her cooking and love of onions.
The scent of sautéing onions . . . .
When I’d come home from school, as soon I’d enter the house, the aroma of onions wafted to the front door. Every single school day.
When I’d sleep in on the weekends, I’d awake to the delicious smell of the caramelizing onions. Every single weekend.
And every day around five in the afternoon, the scent of the sautéing onions would travel through the hallways, making its way into every room. Every day!
In addition to whatever delicious food my mom was cooking on her beautiful O’Keefe and Merritt stove (which had belonged to her mom), there was always a pan of onions going. Always. She was simply not in the kitchen without cooking onions. It was the start of every savory dish — the foundation. Oh, sure, garlic would likely make its way in eventually, but it was never quite as important as the onions were.
No recipes needed . . .
My mom rarely, if ever, used a recipe. If she did, it was only as a guide, and it featured her own notes penciled into the margins.
Her every dish was spot on. The flavors were always magnificent. We’re talking about the types of flavors you could never get enough of, even if you were full. Second and third helpings were always had in my house. Always.
And she cooked with whole, healthy ingredients. Whenever possible, they were from my dad’s backyard garden.
Beginning with onions of course, my mom created masterpieces from leftovers. Her meals had many secret ingredients, which were often from the surplus of dipping sauces she would collect from her favorite Thai restaurant.
My mom never — never ever — ordered anything in a restaurant without extra onions. Whether it was a pizza, a chicken dish, a salad, you name it, she’d say, “double the onions, please.”
Donations can be made in honor of my mom to The Michael J. Fox Foundation — or, you could fill your home with the scent of sautéing onions, as my mom would . . . .
Quick Caramelized Onions
- olive oil
- onions, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a heavy-bottomed sauté pan.
- Add thinly sliced onions and place the pan over medium heat.
- Sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are as golden as you’d like. My mom liked them caramelized, but with a bit of a crunch, which for about 2 cups of sliced onions, would be about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Here's How to Season to Taste.)
What a lovely tribute, Valentina. I am so sorry for your loss. Your mom did many wonderful things and your love lives on, heightened by the aroma of caramelized onions.
Thank you so much, Priscilla. xo
An incredible tribute to your mom. You will carry her memory with you always, yet each time you smell onions cooking you'll know that she's smiling at you.
Love this, Judy. Thank you. xo
Love and sympathy to you and your family, Valentina. I will step up my sautéing of onions and think of you and your mom. Thanks to her we have two large and beautiful trees in our parkway.
Thank you, Sue. Oh, I love that your parkway trees are a result of my mom's efforts. That makes me happy. xo
So sorry to hear the news, Valentina. Sending love and condolences to you.
I hope you will continue to share wonderful memories of and recipes from your mother.
Bring on the onions!
Thank you very much, Sue. xo (P.S. Buzz and I miss you!)
Our condolences to you and your family, Valentina, in the loss of your dear mother. May her inspirations and love of onions live forever in your hearts. Caz & Gaz [Australia]
I so appreciate this. Many thanks and much love.
Oh Valentina, I can only imagine how bittersweet it will be whenever you smell the aroma of caramelizing onions! What a lovely post. I am so very sorry for your loss, but as you said, there is solace in knowing she is at peace. Hugs.
Thank you, Christina. xo
Such a beautiful tribute Valen. I had no idea that she cooked onions everyday - love learning that about her. I've been doing lots of remembering. I keep thinking of how when we were little your house was this big mysterious place with closed rooms full of stuff, and a backyard we couldn't really play in because it was full of piles of wood and stones, and tiles and more stuff. And then slowly but surely your mom transformed the whole house into this amazing wonderland. One absolutely stunning room at a time. What amazing vision, patience and perseverance to create.
And I adore that pic of your mom and Mason!
I just love you describe the piles (of stuff!) disappearing and the rooms coming together in the house. So true. And yes, she sure did have a vision! Love you!
What a wonderful tribute to your mom! I am so very sorry for this tremendous loss but I am so glad to hear that you have such happy memories of her that will live on in your kitchen. Sending much love...
Thanks so much, Jeanne. xo
What soulful, beautiful memories of your mom. The loss of one's mother is life changing. Cherish all the time you had with her, keep her close while you grieve. Sending hugs and peaceful thoughts to comfort you as you begin your life without her.
Thank you, Deb. I know you understand, and I so appreciate your kind words. Much love. xo
After I lost my beloved mother, cooking her favorites in my kitchen became and remains such a comfort. Making my summer pickles today and I will remember your Mom as I slice the sweet onions.
Thank you so much, Liz. I hope the pickles turned out great, and love that cooking your mom's food brings you comfort, too. xo
Valentina, I was so sorry to hear about the loss of your lovely mom. When I think about her cooking what I remember most clearly is her love of chocolate! I still have her handwritten recipe for chocolate cheesecake - delicious and always made with love.
Julie, I just love that you have her handwritten recipe. She LOVED that cheesecake so much. Thank you. xoxo
Beautifully written, Valentina. Carole will be missed so much.
Thank you, Adrienne. xoxo
I don't know you or your mother but I was moved to write by your post in honour of your mom. I know loss, my mum passed away when I was 9 and my dad pass away 3 years ago after suffering with dementia. It's these moments, the simple frying of onions, that we remember in a special way. While a the time she didn't know it, she was giving you something for when she was no longer here. Talk about her often, remember her always and take care of yourself.
Thank you so very much for this note. I'm sorry you lost your dad at such a young age, and how hard it must have been to loose your mom a few years ago, too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts -- I just love what your wrote . . . about how she didn't even know the gift (of a lovely memory) she was giving me all of those times she sautéed the onions. Much love to you, Valentina
What wonderful memories you have of your mother Valentina. I can only imagine how remarkable of a woman she was. I am so sorry for your loss.
I will saute onions in her honor... and then double it.
Thank you so much, Cathy. (For sautéing and doubling, too.) xo
Adair @ Lentil Breakdown
I can tell by looking at your mom that I liked her. And her onions, of course! She had to be both a wonderful cook and mother, as the proof is in the pudding and the progeny. XO
You are so sweet, Adair. Thank you so much. xo
Sweet and loving Post, Valentina. I'm so sorry for you and your family, and am so glad you have so many wonderful memories to get you through this difficult time. I will think of your mom every time I sauté onions now...
One of my closest friends from college suffers from Parkinson's disease, and I am a regular contributor to the Michael J Fox Foundation. I will make my next donation in memory of your mother.
Wishing you peace and light – with big hugs,
David, I'm so grateful we've made such a good connection through the food world. You've been so supportive of my recipe writing -- and on a personal level, too. I wish your friend with Parkinson's well, and my whole family appreciates the contribution. It's been a tough year, but we're all looking towards lighter times. Thank you and much love to you and Mark, Valentina XOXO
I'm so sorry for your loss Valentina but I know your mom is looking down and smelling the wonderful waft of onions that now you and so many others (including me!) are cooking in her honor. What a nice tribute to amazing woman!
Thank you so much, Kelly. So appreciate this. Good thing we all love onions! 😉 xo
I'll "double the onions" the next time I'm in the kitchen and think of this lovely tribute to a beautiful woman. XOGREG
Thank you, Greg. xoxo
Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious
Valentina, I missed this originally a year ago, awash in my own similar circumstances, but am so glad to see it now. It's a wonderful remembrance, and I am doubling the onions from here on out, in her honor.
Awww, thank you so much Dorothy. xoxo