2023 Grateful 26: The search is over

Finally. The search is over. After years of hopeful questions – well, the same hopeful question – someone has delivered.

Ön hagymakarikák házi készítésű? Are your onion rings homemade?

Usually, the answer is no. And we move on.

Once, I was told that yes, of course they are. Onions double minced, carefully formed into circles, then breaded and fried. A fusion of Kansas City BBQ and fine dining apparently. How disappointing.

The ring doesn’t refer to the shape of the end product, but the shape of the onion.

Onion rings. Rings of onion. Whole rings of onion. Hello???

The humble onion ring apparently was first mentioned by Englishman John Mollard in his 1802 cookbook, The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined. But in India, since the sixteenth century, they’ve been coating veg (including onions) in chickpea flour and frying them as pakora. The onion ring as we know it though? Where did it come from?

Etymologist Barry Popik tracked down a handful of places in which onion rings, also referred to as “French fried onions,” made appearances in America, the earliest of his findings being a 1908 recipe by Fannie M. Farmer in the Fort Wayne Sentinel. In 1910, a recipe in the New York Sun calls French fried onions “a novelty that progressive New York restaurants are introducing with great appreciation from their patrons.”

It’s important to note that both of these references precede the 1921 opening of the Texas-based Pig Stand, which has been hailed in various publications as the birthplace of the onion ring, according to The History Channel. The establishment was a pioneer in several ways (including being the first drive-in restaurant), but onion ring creator it was not. It’s possible Pig Stand popularized the actual term “onion rings,” though a 1939 menu (via WorthPoint) appears to still call them French fried onions (priced at 10 cents — what a time!).

Read More: https://www.mashed.com/326050/the-untold-truth-of-onion-rings/

There was a chip van in Cashel, Co Tipperary, that did the best onion rings I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it’s still there. This was lifetimes ago. Thick circles of onion, proper rings, deep-fried in a golden batter. Artery-clogging stuff, but delicious. I’m salivating just thinking about them.

Signpost in the foreground. Sign on left - red LED letters spell out PANORÁMA ÉTTEREM in red. On the right top, a square sign with red letters on white spelling Panoráma Étterem and in white on red on the bottom NYITVA: 10:00-21:00. Underneath the class Coco-Cola in white italics on a red circle. Beyond the sign is a road with the bonnet of a red car eding into the photo from the left. Then a ditch, a hedge, a lake, with mountains on the horizon of a blue sky.

We’ve passed Panoráma Étterem just outside Balatonbéreny on Route 76 many times. It’s at the top of a hill so if you’re coming from Béreny or Balatonkeresztúr, it’s easy to miss.

Every time we’ve sailed by, we’ve made a note to stop next time.

That next time finally came.

Green field then trees and houses, then a lake, then a long flat mountain, then a blue sky takes up 2/3rds of the photo

Wooden framed sign showing mountains and a lake with the horizon picked out in three circles. White text on green runs down the whole right side but is difficult to read - in Hungarian.

While the views across the Balaton are punctuated by passing cars, the lookout tower, Somoshegyi kilátó, offers a calming view of the north shore.

Four-storey lookout tour built of slatted wood set on gravel with lake, mountains and blue sky in the background and a tree framing the left of the photo.

But it was János and his onion rings that made my day. They were so good, they could have been calamari. But they weren’t. They were onions. Proper onions, battered and fried. We ordered a second portion, not because we were particularly hungry but because they were so good.

And good and all as they were, it was the service that made the experience.

The menu is solid standard Hungarian fare – I had the Jokai bab leves (bean soup); himself had the Transylvania plate (it came with onion rings). Ample portions, cooked well, reasonably priced. With a view. And a waiter who knows what he’s at.

Not once did he lapse into German in the face of my pitiful Hungarian.

This is usually what happens. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to say Nem beszélek németül – I don’t speak German. Saying I’m Irish isn’t enough. They don’t know that in Ireland, according to the last census, only 28,331 people speak German. And I’m not one of them.

It drives me batty, this assumption that if you’re not Hungarian and you’re in Zala, then you have to be German. In fairness, there are a LOT of Germans, so statistically speaking it’s a reasonable assumption. But I’m not one of them.

And how will I ever learn the language if I’m not let speak it?

János recognised my ineptitude, slowed down his speech, and spoke clearly enough for me to follow his questions. He then patiently listened to my answers. Perfectly pleasant and pleasing.

I left with a sense of achievement knowing where to come the next time I have a craving for onion rings and want to practice my Hungarian. Am truly grateful.

PS If you’re reading this Stateside, National Onion Ring Day is June 22.














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