ho-made classic french onion soup

This post is super long because I treat this website as my own personal tumblr so skip down if you want to get to the soup.

The weather sucks and whenever the weather sucks I find myself mulling abstract concepts that have no point and that no one wants to hear about. People can see in my face that I'm not thinking about anything good and then, shortly after, the interrogation begins: what's wrong / what's on your mind / are you okay?

I tell them that the weather's bad. The real answer: I'm not unhappy, at least not consciously. It's just the way, apparently, that I am.

Most people are aware of the Myers-Briggs personality theory, to the extent that it's getting fucking old. "You KNOW You're An Introvert IF"... articles and the 'omg so awkward such introvert' tumblr posts are really ruining it for everyone who thought it was legitimate. But honestly, it's never really been a useful system of understanding people who aren't you. There are too many things it can't cover: why certain 'introvert' types get depressed when they don't socialize; why 'thought'-oriented people have such unregulated emotions that don't match their 'logical' sensibility.

There's another theory of personality floating around, significantly less popular because it's so much more complicated, that is apparently based on the movie Shrek. Personalities, it says, are like onions. (It's called Socionics, but does anyone care?) 

Everyone has four layers of personality. Each layer is composed of two traits: one is an 'extroverted' function, which determines how you outwardly deal with the world around you; the other is an 'introverted' function, which refers to how you navigate and process within your own head. You then combine one of each orientation with a function in each of two categories: intuitive or sensing, thinking or feeling. It nets you combinations like 'introverted intuition / extraverted feeling' or 'extraverted sensing / introverted thinking.' The more defining feature comes first, and determines your overall personality. This allows for something like 'extroverted intuition' (the ability to read others and situations around you) to be your most dominant trait, making you a technical extrovert (you're oriented towards the world around you) who might still despise other people.

So, four layers. The top layer -- the toughest, most resilient, and most dominant part of everyone -- is what you use automatically in day to day life. It is the big thick onion piece that doesn't come off unless you mutilate it. Whatever these functions are, you've developed them without thinking, and perceive most information you get through their filter. Up front, I have extroverted intuition / introverted thinking. This means I read people well on the surface, and usually accurately, but then overthink what I've just seen when I go to process it. I spend a lot of time lost in my head, despite being a technical extrovert. Other people are the opposite: they love being around people because they like the sensation of it, yet don't understand them at all.

The next layer hides behind that front layer, and these traits are where we are weakest. To figure this out, you flip the 'function', but not the orientation. Extroverted intuition's weakness is extroverted sensing: for how well you can read people, you are overwhelmingly annoyed by almost everything tedious in your surroundings, and are more sensitive than others to the stimuli that other people (who might very sense-oriented) screen out. It makes no sense. Why does a very outwardly social person who likes people hear the horrifying chewing sounds people make on the train at 4x their maximum possible volume? Why does a very thoughtful person  sometimes get gripped with an overwhelming urge to stare at the wall and think about senseless, irrational shit that makes you sad ON PURPOSE? Why does clammy weather make strongly intuitive people feel like we need to unzip our skin suits and crawl out of existence?  Because people are only good at regulating and articulating the functions they actually use, and the rest are a goddamn mess.

One layer deeper, there's no weakness at all: it's just pure vacancy. With extroverted intuition / introverted thought, here is the true inversion, where you flip everything: extroverted feeling, which means I can't process displays of emotion by others; but also introverted sensing, which at this level determines if you are a closeted hypochondriac who misreads your bodily signals as something they aren't. If you find yourself very emotional around people but feel void when alone, this is why. If you're otherwise ok at understanding how you feel but can't assign logic to them when someone asks how you feel about them, this is why. When a huge gulfs form in a relationship, it's because of this layer: whatever is down here, you don't understand it, and when confronted with it, your default is to go blank. Someone who needs you in an area where you're vacant will be incredibly let down when they realize you can't operate that way. This layer is buried for a reason. 

The last layer, the core layer, is our 'for emergency use only' area. They're the reverse orientations of your dominant functions: extroverted intuition and introverted thought swap to become introverted intuition (you have 'gut feelings' you can't explain) and extroverted thought (you need to explain it all for it to be valid). When I am especially troubled, I can feel these kick in. Suddenly, like I've just discovered gravity, I start to pay attention to what my instincts are saying -- even though they're often crazy. When I'm at the end of my rope in an argument, I will rail for hours trying to explain every corner of why I am so upset. These are the parts of ourselves that cope: unattractive but necessary, instinctive and unchangeable. Fight or flight originates here. So do our desperate measures. This is how extroverted-feeling people actually compartmentalize breakups better (they internalize it and repackage it), and why highly rational people struggle to understand why people hurt them (they can't explain why something bad happened).

Whenever I peel an onion now I feel a twinge of what reminds me of cannibalism. 

What I've learned is that onions suck, thematically and otherwise. I can't peel them or slice them without eyeball revolt. I hate how they smell when they seep out of people's pores, or when I can smell them on the breath of someone ten feet away. I can't cut them attractively or cook them properly, ever, and I rarely bother buying them whole because once a forgotten one sprouted and grew a plant in my friend's pantry. Foul.

I don't like my onions (or any substance) stringy, so I use chopped, which I buy pre-done in small cartons in the produce section. The Swiss-Gruyere shredded blend TJ's sells appears to be made for exactly this purpose, since both types are in the original recipe but neither are sold as separate products. I prefer the bread to sog out like pudding, so I don't toast it before the broil process. I even own the right crocks, complete with the white paint-spatter printed rims, although this is only because they're the right size to make ramen in the microwave. And so this is otherwise a decently faithful low-ambition French adaptation of very French onion soup, designed for impressive nights as much as the gloomy one I'm currently experiencing. 

But if you're at all like me (I hope no one is), I suppose those often turn out to be the same regardless.

ho-made classic french onion soup | slothful slattern

RECIPE

Effortful time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hr, 40 minutes
Serves: 3

Soup stuff:

  • 2 whole yellow onions, chopped, or sliced if you're normal
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt, at least for the cooking part
  • A drizzle of balsamic vinegar (some recipes use sugar; I don't have any but this contains enough to get the job done)
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 4 cups beef stock — I used Better than Bouillon
  • 1 cup marsala wine
  • Black pepper

Topping stuff:

  • Trader Joe's shredded Swiss & Gruyere blend
  • More black pepper
  • Dried-out toasts, they come in a bag

MAKE IT

  1. Melt the butter and oil in a dutch oven over medium-low. Add the chopped onions and smother them in the fats. Cover and lower the heat to a very low simmer for 15 minutes. This is the first of two slow parts, but you don't have to be present for this one.
  2. Once 15 minutes has passed, uncover, raise the heat, and add the salt/balsamic (the sugar helps with browning; it's not enough to make it sweet). Cook the onions, stirring periodically, for about 35 minutes until they are VERY CARAMELIZED. (As smittenkitchen notes in the original, this step, despite its philosophical conflict with this website and my overall personality, is what separates the gods of onion soup from the men of onion soup. If I am going to do it, I will do it the right goddamn way.)
  3. Once the onions are cooked, add the flour and stir to coat. Add the wine, then the stock, stirring like you would risotto. Add pepper and salt if you need it (some people are weird and buy low sodium beef broth so I can't account for this). Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 40 more minutes. Ladle into crocks.
  4. The slacker way of topping this is simple: I have these weird old 'entertaining toasts' from Whole Foods that are very dry and toasted already. Top each with a few of these, a mound of the swiss-gruyere, and pepper it. Let this all soak for a few minutes, then broil on high for a few more.
  5. Dip additional toasts in it if you desire. This has nothing to do with the fact that I haven't done dishes and don't have any spoons.