Caramelized Onions


If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cooking caramelized onions, it’s that doing so takes patience. It’s tempting to turn up the heat in an attempt to brown them faster. It’s hard to resist the urge to stir them around the pan. The key to delicious, caramel-brown, sweet onions is to cook them low and slow. Don’t rush. Let them simmer and wait. The simmering and waiting require patience. Patience isn’t something I have a lot of these days.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not like I had tons of patience before mom died. But now? Now I have even less.

My diminished level of patience likely comes from a muddled concoction of grief in general, current lack of sleep with a hefty splash of “all of these little annoying things aren’t really important unless it’s a matter of life or death.”

Knowing this, I am not quite sure what possessed me to decide to plan our entire dinner around caramelized onions. But I did. I took a little help from the store and purchased ready-to-cook turkey burgers. I asked the hubby to grill those up while I focused on the onions.

After coating a pan with a bit of olive oil and setting it on medium heat, I started slicing. I used two large Vidalia onions and threw those in. The instant sizzle is pretty satisfying. I’ve always liked that. I stirred them around to coat in the oil and turned the heat down to medium-low.


Then, I walked away. I didn’t really keep track of time, but I let my nose decide when it was time to return to the kitchen to stir. The onions start smelling sweeter and that’s when I know it’s time. I repeated this process for about an hour until they were golden brown. I added a splash of balsamic vinegar, stirred, and then waited some more. Why did I do this again? This is taking so long. It’s delicious – that’s why. It’s also distracting and I think that’s probably really why.

For a solid hour, maybe a little more, all I had to do was think about these onions. Breathe them in, occasionally stir them around, go take a peek, resist the urge to stir, etc.

I piled them on both sides of my burger.


Their sweet aroma filled the house.

The onions paired perfectly with the turkey and I was instantly proud of this “cheater’s” version of a homemade dinner. Thank you Whole Foods turkey burgers. And, in that instant, my distraction evaporated. I wanted to call mom and tell her about dinner. I used to do that all the time.

I used to call mom to tell her about new recipes I’d found (usually on Pinterest). Sometimes I’d call to tell her that I’d gotten a new cookbook from the library and promise to show it to her when she came to visit. I’d always call if my hubby was making “Mike’s famous chili” as she called it. He really does make the best chili. I didn’t just call at dinner time to talk about our dinners, though.

If I’m being honest, I was also calling to check in with her. My parents are divorced – they have been for quite some time, separating my first year of college. Ever since then, I’ve always felt like I needed to make sure she knew that she wasn’t alone. I called her every day. We didn’t always chat for long. Some days she was running out to go to book club or a friend’s house for dinner, but I always wanted her to know I cared about what she was doing and more importantly, that I cared about her and needed her and loved her. 

In hindsight, I should have picked up on the fact that something was really wrong. Instead of our usual chats, I felt like mom was rushing me off the phone. She didn’t sound like herself.

I told my husband that something seemed off. She sounded tired and when I questioned her, she told me she was tired. She said that she didn’t feel right and that she thought her thyroid medicine needed to be adjusted. She told me she went to the doctor and got new medicine. So, I let it go. She said she went to the doctor…what more could I do?

She did go. I saw the bill when my brother and I were going through papers in the house after she died. That damn bill (and the other doctor bills we found) made me angry. She went to a doctor, how didn’t anyone catch the fact that she had cancer? I digress. More on that another time. I don’t want to go down that road right now.

I’m trying to be kind to myself. I’m trying to focus on the positives. It’s not easy and I’m not always successful, but I’m trying.

Today’s weather was beautiful, so I suggested we take a family walk after dinner. We took our usual walk around the block. The kiddo stopped to pick some weeds flowers for me. He found a quarter on the sidewalk. I admired all of the plants in bloom. Can every evening be like this one please?

We came home, opened the door and I instantly smelled the onions.

Patience, I thought. Be patient.



4 thoughts on “Caramelized Onions

  1. Sara Ohlin May 4, 2017 / 2:14 pm

    Beautiful Amy! Gosh we have such similar paths. I remember when my mom first went to the doctor too, about 6 weeks before she died and they said she had pneumonia, then a week later the dentist said, no it’s not pneumonia, it’s a gum disease. Such weird surreal moments of what?!?! Hang in there!!!!


  2. Jenn O. May 4, 2017 / 10:15 pm

    The smell of onions cooking feels like home to me – an instantly comfortable feeling and comforting aroma. Keep cooking!


    • Amy May 5, 2017 / 12:12 am

      I love the smell of onions cooking! Funny how comforting they can be – considering slicing them makes my eyes cry! Thanks Jenn!


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