It’s time once again for Food Holidays: The Guide Style. This means celebrating foods from around the world, or around your kitchen. Or maybe some made up food they decided to stick in a holiday. I am just never sure about that one. We discuss the not so real history of the quasi holiday of the dish of the day. (For those of you in Timbuktu, read “fake history”.) And as this week was coming down the pike, I could have easily chosen Chocolate Eclairs as today just so happens to be National Chocolate Éclair day. And what’s even crazier is that the very first recipe on my blog was for Chocolate Eclairs. My own version of the amazing dessert.
But I thought choosing Éclair day would be too easy. And I cannot make things easy on this blog or else I will just get bored and actually have to accomplish things in life instead of working on this for hours and days at a time with many sleepless nights. And who needs sleep? Except for maybe human beings. But I obviously cannot be one because I am here . . . writing this . . . for hours on end . . . waiting for the sun to burn up . . . staring at the clock . . . getting sleepy . . . sleepy. Wait! Where was I? That’s right. Food holidays. And so today I am choosing among the plethora of National Food days the pre-eminent nightmare for any doctor who is concerned with their patient’s cholesterol. You guessed it. It’s Onion Rings!
One of the premier staples in the fast food diet. And we are all on this fast food diet. Right? Right? Ok, maybe we aren’t but wouldn’t it be cool if we could eat these things and have it make us get thin? Why hasn’t someone figured out the genetic code yet, thereby enabling us to eat onion rings and get thin? I think there would be a lot of money in that. So get to it!
But until that time, we celebrate the delectable dish that seems to always be a feature of the appetizer menu, almost anywhere. How did this delectable dish come to be? Who thought dipping onions in breading and then deep frying them would taste good? And why do I love onion rings and hate soggy onions? I suppose that only I can answer the last of those questions. But the Guide is absolutely resolved in discovering the answers the the first two questions.
So the Guide sent out it’s intrepid reporter to the “fake news wilderness” (the internet) to suss out the origins of this dish. Could they have come from cowboys in the Midwest? Are they the brain child of Kenyan tribesman who used them as lassos for animals until they realized that they didn’t work very well as the animals ate right through them? Or was it the sinister plot of some KGB agents from Russia who were determined to make the rest of the world smell as badly as they did and figured making people eat a ton of onions would help? Only someone as dedicated as our crack team could solve such a mystery.
And here are our findings:
The Fake History Of The Onion Ring
The recipe for the great cholesterol increaser, known only as the Onion Ring (or Onny for short), unofficially dates back to the early 1800s. In 1802 someone had the bright idea of publishing a book called “The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined.” Shortly thereafter he was hung for coming up with such an awful name for a book title. The English really do have something about making proper titles for books. (I’m only just kidding. About the hanging . . . hopefully.)
In the pages of this ancient manuscript, someone was able to decipher that they had a recipe for Fried Onions with Parmesan Cheese. Now one might think that the person who claimed Onion Ring parentage for this book should be shot. Until one reads the recipe. In the instructions it tells to cut onions into one half inch rings, dip them in milk, dredge them in flour cream, salt pepper, Parmesan cheese, and deep fry them in lard. Then go and “drinketh the Jack of Daniels and be ye #%*& faced. Doolay Doolay!” Wait. That was The Fisher King. I digress.
Actually, the recipe sounded pretty darned amazing to me and I thought, “Woah! I have to try this.”
And I was going to until the book pages turned into ashes faster than Mother Gothel in the movie Tangled. So we were stuck doing further research into the parenting of this amazing food. For some reason no one would believe us about the vanishing book so our crack research team decided to research the deep web and find out more.
And what we found was just shocking! Shocking I tell you. OK, maybe not that shocking. We found the existence of a recipe for French Fried Onions in the Daily Times. Since it obviously stole the name of the recipe from French Fries we became very suspicious of it. And then we realized that there was not any actual recipe at all to be found. So why we put it in this history, is anybodies guess.
The State of Texas became the next claimant on the list of people claiming ownership of the parentage of the Onion Ring. (How ownership and parentage can be in the same sentence and make sense, I will never know. But it works. Right? Right?) They believe that the true parentage of the Onion ring should go to (and I am not making this up I swear) Kirby’s Pig Stand Restaurants. Evidently some pig farmer mixed up the onions for the pigs with the chicken for dinner and grandma wasn’t paying attention as she tossed them into the batter to fry. (The pigs got chicken dinner that night.) Or maybe Kirby’s Pig Stand was just the name of a Restaurant who created the dish. I’m rooting for the former because it’s a cooler story.
Then there a lady by the name of Fannie M. Flag who claimed to put it in her recipe book in 1900, also under the auspices of the name French Fried Onions. Nothing is known about the aforementioned Flag. But we here at the Guide like to think that she was the originator of the term “let your freak flag fly.” Go Fannie!
Ultimately the person or persons claiming responsibility for the Onion Ring is the Crisco vegetable oil company. Whether or not they attempted to sell it as a health food is up for debate. Health food or no, Crisco put its recipe for the Onion Ring in their 1933 advertisement in the New York Times. And as it came from the New York Times no one can call it fake news. Maybe. They called it “Deep Fried Onion Rings.”
And it has stood with that moniker until this day. Well with everything except the deep fried part. Because no one wants to be reminded that they are eating food that’s fried in lard. No one!
My Favorite Onion Rings
I guess as I have never been one to make onion rings so that when it came to dealing with onion ring recipes, I don’t feel like I could speak to how to make an amazing onion ring. I am sure that it’s not too much different than other fried foods where you dip it in batter and out pops food heaven, or cholesterol hell. Take your pick. So I am not going to pass of some recipe a my own. And I am not going to borrow one. Because if you did make it and it stunk then no one would trust me. And I’m all about trust.
So what I am going to do is to talk about my top five favorite places for Onion Rings. And in so doing I will talk about what makes a good Onion Ring to me. And what makes a pretender. Because no one likes a slimy onion ring. And no one really likes and oily one either. And if you do, let me give you the number to a heart specialist, and speed dial to the ER.
My Top Five Favorite Onion Ring Places
(And I guess I should add in Southern California)
5) The Hat –
Given the tenor of this piece, the Hat fits right into cholesterol city, coming in at number five. The restaurant feels like you have entered a diner from back in the 70s. Someone had those crazy yellows and ugly browns and decided to make a restaurant color scheme of it. But anyone who has been there will tell you the food is delicious . . . and heart attach inducing. The onion rings are no different. They are tasty and crispy. Every bite sings in your mouth. The only thing I would say about them is they are a bit too oily for my taste. Hence while the Hat onion rings are better than most onion rings out there, they do not quite equal onion ring perfection.
This is a chain, and it’s relatively new in the Southern California scene as restaurants go. But the first time I tasted the onion rings there I did love them. (Although I love their fried green beans even more.) They do onion rings justice. There are not overly oily. And the rings themselves have a hard crunch every bite. You don’t worry about the whole onion coming out of the ring once you bite into it. That’s a very important trait. The bad thing is they really don’t give out stuff to dip it into. (Unless you like ketchup with your onion rings and all I can say is EWWWW!!!)
3) TK Burgers –
Sometimes you just want a good burger. And for that TK Burgers hits the spot. They make an amazing and affordable burger in several locations throughout Orange County. There is some variant in food choices depending on location so be sure to check out their website before you count of having a shake with your amazing burger and delectable onion rings. But to end up on this best list, you have to have good onion rings and they do. They are crispy and delicious with an added bit of flavor that makes them well worth a try. Get a good ranch to dip it in and you are in onion ring heaven.
2) Umami Burger –
There are a few of these restaurants strewn throughout Orange County but I would definitely not consider them a chain, just yet. They do some amazing different things with burgers. And they definitely have some unique sauces to try with your onion rings. Not only do they have all the different sauces, but they do tempura onion rings. Maybe tempura transports me to heaven somehow. I just love the taste of tempura in almost anything. It balances crunch with taste. And with the onion ring it makes a perfect covering. Now if they could just add Parmesan .
1) Steak and Whiskey –
Steak and Whiskey is located in Hermosa Beach in LA County and it has some of the Best Steak Selections in all of the Southern California. And if you are a whiskey connoisseur, then the place is absolutely to die for. But what makes them great is the amazing onion rings and the sauces they create for them. From the Rosemary and Sage infused tempura batter (Yes I think Tempura Batter is a trend here) to the Goddess dressing they serve with them with, these onion rings are to die for. But hopefully, they are much better to live for. So if you want the best Onion Rings in the area they are here. Just remember, it is a fine dining establishment. Although taking your date to onion rings . . . I am not sure is the best way to win her affections. So go at your own risk.
Continue The Conversation
So what did you think of the history of the onion ring? And which of the groups that lay claim to the onion ring do you actually believe? I am hoping it’s Fannie Flag. Because if it’s really Crisco I am not sure what to think. I guess all I can say is Bon-Appetit. And make sure you call your cardiologist in the morning. Because he misses you.
If you loved this post, please follow me here at the Guide. All email subscribers will receive access to the Dad Rules. These are ten rules every dad should follow. Or they will be run over by a mac truck. Or as the Confucian’s say: “may they live interesting times.” Once again, thank you for stopping by.
Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life
Other Food Holidays