Like many others, we have been so torn up since the Orlando shooting this weekend. We just keep getting hit by waves of sadness and anger and defeatism and confusion. Wash, rinse, repeat.
If there's one thing we learned from reading Dave Cullen's tremendous book Columbine, it's that whatever you think is true about a mass shooter during the first few days following a massacre probably isn't what's actually the case. (No, there was no Trench Coat Mafia at Columbine. No, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold weren't bullied social outcasts.) So we know it's still early days to speculate about the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen. Was he an ISIS sympathizer who wanted the U.S. out of Syria? Was he a closeted gay man whose own internalized homophobia finally manifested itself in the most grotesque way imaginable? Was he neither? Was he both?
Nonetheless, it makes it hard for us, as gay men, not to see this atrocity through a personal lens. There have already been a number of essays over the past couple days about how gay bars and nightclubs are something of a sacred space, a sanctuary of sorts, where gays can come together in safety. We feel that way, too -- even though we live in Washington, D.C., one of the most gay-friendly jurisdictions in the world. Even if we don't feel threatened or harassed (and in 13 years in D.C., we rarely have), it's still important to have these spaces where we can gather and celebrate with like-minded people.
That's the sadness part of the equation.
Here comes the anger.
We just cannot fathom why semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 used in Orlando are still street-legal. We both grew up in extended families and communities of proud, responsible hunters and gun owners (though one of us did grow up in a community with a pre-Columbine school shooting that killed three students and injured five others). We don't think the government should be able to prohibit gun ownership. But it boggles our minds that Americans can't at least agree that assault weapons like this should be illegal. Do we have a right to own guns? Yes, absolutely. Do we have a right to own grenades? Bazookas? Tanks? No, because those are weapons of war. And so are assault rifles.
If you agree that it's abhorrent to have military-style assault weapons for sale to anybody who wants them, please -- please -- contact your representative in Congress and let him or her know you support an assault weapons ban. As this Washington Post editorial says, it's the only Constitutional measure that would make mass shootings less lethal.
We know: You didn't come to a food blog to read about mass shootings and gun control. But, well, those men and women in Orlando didn't go out dancing with their friends expecting to face gunfire.
We're no doubt going to continue to grieve and rage over this tragedy in the coming weeks.
But food is part of our language of grief, and it is what we came here for. So we're leaving you with an excellent recipe for Grilled Onions with Balsamic Vinaigrette.
So here are our three things we hope you'll do today, Bittens:
- Channel your anger and frustration over a heartless attack into a positive step forward.
- Hug your friends and family and tell them you love them.
- Make these onions and share a meal with your loved ones.
The size of the onions will affect the cooking time, so it’s important to choose onions that weigh between 7 and 8 ounces each and measure about 3 inches in diameter. In step 3, be sure to err on the side of achieving darker charring, as the steaming step will soften the char’s appearance and flavor. The onions can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Whisk 6 tablespoons oil, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in bowl; set aside.
Trim stem end of onions and halve onions from root end to stem end, leaving skin intact. (Root end can be trimmed, but don’t remove it.) Brush cut sides of onions with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle each half with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Arrange onions cut side down on grill over medium heat and cook (covered if using gas) until well charred, 10 to 15 minutes, moving onions as needed to ensure even cooking. Flip onions and cook cut side up until light charring develops on skin side, about 5 minutes.
Transfer onions cut side up to disposable pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Return disposable pan to grill and cook over medium heat (covered if using gas) until onions are tender and easily pierced with paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes.
When onions are cool enough to handle, remove and discard charred outer skin; arrange onions cut side up on large platter. Rewhisk vinaigrette and drizzle evenly over onions. Sprinkle with chives, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.