Imagining Onion Rings Complexly: Lessons from John Green

I want to talk about onion rings.

I love onion rings. In my food pyramid, they sit at the very top. Fat, golden, crunchy little halos sent down from God to make my butt lumpy and my heart full.

Fuck grains, and green vegetables, and protein. I want onion rings.

*angels singing* (Photo credit: Steven Depolo.
*angels singing* (Photo credit: Steven Depolo.

But, here’s the thing: I can’t eat onion rings. Not anymore. Now, I’m on this diet — the UnDiet — and nowhere in this damn book has it said, “Okay, RG, you can eat your onion rings. We’ll let you.” And that’s an issue for me. Because I’m pretty sure that I was put on this earth to single-handedly keep onion ring producers in business. And I take my God-given mission seriously.

Now, it’s Week 2 AOR (After Onion Rings, obviously), and I’ve started to dream about them: the sizzle they make in the oven; the way that some of them are fat little fists and others are skinny hula hoops; the sweet-salty-ketchup-crunch that cures all ills.

My stomach just growled — the sad lonely whale song of an organ abandoned by its one true love.

What’s a lady to do with a mourning organ and a butt that’s lost a little of its well-loved-jiggle? Turn to John Green, of course. He’s full of answers.

I mean, his face is on a t-shirt. He knows things.
I mean, his face is on a t-shirt. He knows things.

There’s a part in John Green’s book “An Abundance of Katherines” when the main character Colin Singleton thinks, “You can love someone so much…But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.”

I’m trying to think about onion rings in that way:

You love onion rings so much, RG. But you’ll never love onion rings as much as you can miss them.

Because, when your life’s mission of consuming all of the onion rings is taken away from you, what’s left? Only the memory of all of those golden little circles, and the heart-warming, butt-lumping benefits that they gave to you. And in memory, the imagined version of that thing becomes so much more magical than the real, flawed version of that thing. Like, I remember the sweet-salty-ketchup crunch, but, in my deepest onion ring fantasies, do I also remember the grease that dripped out of the fat little fist onion rings when I bit into them? Or the loss of my dignity when I licked my ketchup-and-crumb-covered plate while my sister looked on (eating kale, or some other offensively green vegetable, and shaking her head)?


You miss onion rings more than you ever loved them, RG, because what you miss isn’t the thing that you ever really loved at all. The real is gone. The wrinkles ironed out in memory, and now all you’re left with is a soft shiny imagined thing–

My stomach just growled again. Apparently, the Kingdom Formerly Known As Onionringsylvania does not recognize the authority of John Green.

Okay, okay, but hold up, Stomach. Don’t you remember the Terry’s Chocolate Orange incident?

Don’t you go silent on me now. I know that you remember.

So, let’s get this out of the way: I’m a bad vegan. And, two Christmases ago, I was tired of the rice chocolate shit that vegans are allowed to eat. I wanted the real thing. So, I walked into a Safeway and convinced myself that if I saw a Terry’s Chocolate Orange it was a sign from God that I should buy one.

All right, God. Don't screw me on this. (Photo credit:  Nina Helmer.
All right, God. Don’t screw me on this. (Photo credit: Nina Helmer.

And, of course, I found one (It was Christmas, after all). And, of course, I bought one. And, of course, like the true chocolate pervert that I am, I went home, snuck into my bedroom, closed the door, sat in the dark on the floor, and unwrapped the tinfoil covering my little orange-shaped gift from God.

I devoured the whole thing. In the dark, on the floor of my bedroom. It was as good as I remembered real chocolate being. Not that rice chocolate shit. Real chocolate.

I spent the next few minutes in a chocolate-tinged glow. Yes, I thought, this was God’s work. And then, I started digesting. You see, my stomach didn’t really appreciate the perfect marriage of milk chocolate and orange. All my stomach got was a butt-tonne of dairy after a two year drought. The results of what is now remembered as The Day of the Orange were…unfortunate (to this day, the colony of zits that moved onto my chin can be seen in family Christmas photos).

You see, two years of veganism had ironed out all of the wrinkles in my chocolate memories (“Zits after chocolate? That never happens!” I laugh heartily before stuffing a whole orange-shaped chocolate into my mouth).

And now, two weeks of onion ring deprivation have brought me back to the same missing-more-than-loving place.

So, remember, RG: You love onion rings so much. But you’ll never love onion rings as much as you can miss them. Imagine onion rings complexly. They are beautiful crunchy little slices of heaven. But, they’re also just food.


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