The Core of an Onion: Peeling the Rarest Common Food—Featuring More Than 100 Historical Recipes
An Eater Best Food Book of 2023
A Smithsonian Best Food Book of 2023
From the New York Times-bestselling author of Cod and Salt, a delectable look at the cultural, historical, and gastronomical layers of one of the world’s most beloved culinary staples—featuring original illustrations and recipes from around the world.
As Julia Child once said, “It is hard to imagine a civilization without onions.”
Historically, she’s been right—and not just in the kitchen. Flourishing in just about every climate and culture around the world, onions have provided the essential basis not only for sautés, stews, and sauces, but for medicines, metaphors, and folklore. Now they're Kurlansky's most flavorful infatuation yet as he sets out to explore how and why the crop reigns from Italy to India and everywhere in between.
Featuring historical images and his own pen-and-ink drawings, Kurlansky begins with the science and history of the only sulfuric acid–spewing plant, then digs through its twenty varieties and the cultures built around them. Entering the kitchen, Kurlansky celebrates the raw, roasted, creamed, marinated, and pickled. Including a recipe section featuring more than one hundred dishes from around the world, The Core of an Onion shares the secrets to celebrated Parisian chef Alain Senderens’s onion soup eaten to cure late-night drunkenness; Hemingway’s raw onion and peanut butter sandwich; and the Gibson, a debonair gin martini garnished with a pickled onion.
Just as the scent of sautéed onions will lure anyone to the kitchen, The Core of an Onion is sure to draw readers into their savory stories at first taste.
Praise for The Core of an Onion: Peeling the Rarest Common Food—Featuring More Than 100 Historical Recipes
“There are few authors better suited to exploring the history of the onion than Mark Kurlansky … Kurlansky manages to make the cultivation and culinary use of the onion feel like an epic tale as he follows the beloved allium across history, across the globe, and of course, across our plates.” —Eater, Best Food Books of Fall 2023
“The Core of an Onion gives the starring role to the humble yet essential onion, combining beguiling nuggets of literature, art, medicine, botany, and agriculture with assured, bouncy writing and more than one hundred recipes … A sparkling mix of snappy prose with Kurlansky's own illustrations, The Core of an Onion is a perfect treat that demonstrates the dictate that 'onions have a way of taking on unexpected significance.'” —The Foreword, starred review
“Kurlansky, a prodigious cataloger of comestibles, peels away the agricultural, culinary, and cultural history of onions layer by layer … Many photographs amplify the fun and a sizable bibliography enhances the usefulness.” —Booklist
“A sweet, earthy aroma permeates this book, as Kurlansky delves into our enduring love affair with onions … [an] engaging, colorful book. Kurlansky, acclaimed author of Cod, Salt, Salmon, Milk!, and other food-related books, has a wonderful time with his subject, noting that onions have long been eaten in nearly every corner of the globe … A delightful journey that unravels the story of a key piece of nearly every national cuisine.” —Kirkus Reviews
“To love onions is to love the world as it is. If you've forgotten this grounding bit of kitchen wisdom, The Core of an Onion is the perfect cure. With his usual wit and insight, Mark Kurlansky finds the extraordinary in the ordinary. Your daily enrichment, not to mention your meals, will be forever enriched.” —Rowan Jacobsen, author of TRUFFLE HOUND
“Mr. Kurlansky is a veteran writer. Over the course of 34 books-including bestsellers on such seemingly mundane subjects as salt, cod and paper-he has come to be known for his ability to weave history, philosophy and personal experience into compelling narratives.” —Wall Street Journal
"Food historian Mark Kurlansky goes deep on one of the first foods cultivated by humans … Kurlansky really shines when he examines centuries’ worth of recipes for onion dishes, from French onion soup to India’s pakora fritters to the humble onion ring. Cooks and history buffs alike will be charmed and fascinated by The Core of an Onion." —Apple Books, Best Books of November
"In his usual witty way, Kurlansky—known for his many best-selling single-subject food books exploring the likes of cod, salt, milk, oysters and salmon—presents the cultural, historical and gastronomical influences of the allium cepa in his latest work. After reading the 200 pages, including 100 historical recipes, it’s hard not to develop cepaphilia, a word Kurlansky coined to denote ‘the love of onions.'" —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution