# LPTHW: Exercise 3: Numbers and Math and caramelized onions

I use math a lot in my daily life. I’ve managed complicated budgets for several businesses (including my current job) and have been doing my own taxes (accurately!) for over a decade. Most of the time I’m in the grocery store I’m running numbers, determining sale prices, calculating total costs. Same goes for the kitchen — frequently I’m altering recipes, which requires an ability to do conversions on the fly.

Yet, when I saw that this exercise was about “numbers and math”, I froze. Numbers and math! It must be some basic, primal fear coming out. I’m glad I didn’t let it stop me:

Not so scary!

In the extra credit, Zed asks us to go back and comment out each line, explaining what is happening:

The only thing that tripped me up was modulus. In Zed’s words: “Another way to say it is, ‘X divided by Y with J remaining.’ For example, ‘100 divided by 16 with 4 remaining.’ The result of % is the J part, or the remaining part.” Okay.

He also has us start Python and use it as a calculator. I didn’t do anything too fancy:

Next up, he has us write another little .py file that does some math. I couldn’t figure out anything I needed to determine, so I just made something up.

I counted some hypothetical fruit. I’m looking forward to covering variables because I think it would have made my little example easier to write.

Finally, he stressed the importance of using “floating numbers” so I went back and re-wrote my little program to use them. Accuracy wasn’t an issue with this example, but it might be in the future, so floating point numbers seem like a good idea.

For today’s cooking basics lesson, I’m covering caramelized onions. Yesterday I made a pot of my favorite fordhook lima beans. The secret to their deliciousness is a generous base of caramelized onions.

Caramelizing means cooking over low-ish heat for a long time in order to brown the naturally-occurring sugars in the onions. The formerly pearly-white cubes are transformed into a rich golden-brown (or deeper!) color with a rich, savory-sweet flavor.

Start by uniformly chopping onions. A lot of folks go for long thin slices, but I wanted cubes. The small pieces look better than strands in the finished dish.

Warm or melt your fat of choice over medium heat. I used Earth Balance margarine, but you could also use coconut oil or olive oil.

Stir to thoroughly coat onions with fat.

After 10 minutes on medium heat. Use a stiff, well-made spatula to scrape up the bits of browning goodness.

After 20 minutes on medium heat.

Scrape scrape. After thirty minutes on medium. I turned it down to medium low.

Forty minutes…

One hour.

What a difference a little time and heat makes! I did not add any salt, sugar, or liquids to enhance the caramelization process.

If you’re making a soup or a pot of beans, at this point you simply add other ingredients and simmer until fully cooked. As I mentioned above, I used fordhook lima beans and simmered them until the broth formed a kind of rich oniony gravy. A perfect dinner!