“Would you like fries or onion rings with that?” This is a typical question we Americans are asked when ordering a burger. And while we usually choose the fries, the guilty part of us wants the onion rings oh so badly- or at least a combination of both. It’s the calories of the onion rings we are afraid of. What makes onion rings so appealing to all of us who love fried things, is that they are the closest things we have to eat where we are basically just eating the “fried” part just by itself, as we hardly taste the onion. Onion rings are an excuse for us to just eat the fried to our hearts content (and discontent).
There are many different stories about the origin of the onion ring. Here are a few:
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All the way back in 1802, John Mollard wrote a cookbook titled, "The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined.” In it was a recipe for what he called "Fried Onions with Parmesan Cheese." The recipe called for cutting onions into ½ inch rings, dipping them into a batter of flour, cream, salt and pepper, and Parmesan cheese, and then deep-frying them in boiling lard. The onion rings were then supposed to be served with melted butter and mustard- quite different than the simple ketchup we dip them in today.
In 1910, a recipe for French fried onions was published in the Middletown, New York Daily Times, although the author did not claim to be the inventor of the recipe. More evidence of the origin of the onion ring took place in the early 1920’s. A restaurant chain founded in Oak Cliff, Texas called “Kirby’s Pig Stand” served onion rings.
In 1933, the American public was given the gift of a recipe for onion rings- then, a pretty much unknown delicacy. The recipe appeared in a Crisco oil advertisement in the New York Times Magazine. The instructions were to dip the sliced onions in milk, then cover them in flour and fry them.
Another onion ring story began in 1955. A man named Sam Quigley started a company based on the concept of creating products for the food service industry that would eliminate taking the work out of the kitchen and straight into flash fryers. He supplied restaurants with frozen, fry-n-serve hand breaded onion rings. In the beginning, he sold them out of his storefront in Nebraska but the business quickly boomed and his idea for a company was born. In 1959, the demand for these special onion rings was so high that a factory was built to make them. Mechanized methods were introduced to make the onion ring-making process faster and more efficient. Onion rings truly became popular however, in the 1960’s, when the A & W chain restaurant introduced the dish to its’ menus.
The trick to eating onion rings is to avoid pulling the entire onion out of the batter if one fails to cut through both layers with their teeth, attempting to take just a bite of one ring.