In Valerie Stivers’s Eat Your Words series, she cooks up recipes drawn from the works of various writers.
“An Onion” is one of the most famous chapter headings in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and refers not to Russian cuisine, in which onions are a staple ingredient, but to a story the character Grushenka tells about a wicked old woman being pulled up from the fires of hell by holding onto an onion proffered by her guardian angel. The woman lived a bad life but once gave an onion to a beggar, and it’s this single good deed that might save her. The anecdote is meant to demonstrate the possibility of God’s forgiveness, and its teller, Grushenka, says of herself in one of the book’s climactic scenes, “Though I am bad, I did give away an onion,” indicating her readiness to be saved. (As for the old woman, the other dammed souls try to grab her feet and be pulled up too, and she selfishly starts kicking them away. The onion breaks, “and the woman fell into the lake and she is burning there to this day.”) Read More