Onion: You Can’t Assume
In general, I like a lot of different kinds of food. But there is one vegetable I can’t stand: The onion. Whenever I order a sandwich, or a pizza, or an omelet, or any meal where the cook might try to sneak some onions into the mix, I make it clear that I don’t want onions anywhere me. My parents always thought I would grow out of my onion hatred, and for a long time persisted in ordering pizzas topped with onions, forcing me to surgically extract the offending vegetable with a fork and knife. In more recent times, I’ve managed to develop a liking for carmelized onions, because they’re a little bit like candy, but my general approach to onions remains avoidance and, if necessary, removal.
Because I hate onions, I assume that other people hate them, too. But some people assume the opposite. They assume that everybody loves onions, and wants to eat them. So consider this blog a public service campaign called “Not Everybody Likes Onions.” I decided this campaign was necessary on my vacation, when the only lunch option happened to be an onion sandwich. This is not something I want to eat.
I’ll back up. Out of the kindness of my heart, I agreed to cultivate mushroom logs with members of my friend Heather’s sustainable living group. This was actually hard work that involved drilling holes in logs, nailing in small wooden dowels treated with mushroom spawn and coating the dowels with wax, and the sustainable living friends lured us to their home with promises of waffles and champagne. As I worked, I felt my hunger for the waffles and champagne growing.
Shortly before lunch, our host inquired about my dietary needs. “Are you lactose intolerant?” she asked. “No,” I said. “Are you allergic to nuts?” “No,” I said. “Do you eat gluten?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. Finally, I decided to cut to the chase. “You know, the only food I really don’t like is onions,” I said. My hostess’ face fell. “That’s a bit of a problem,” she said. “For lunch, I’ve made sandwiches filled with a salad of onions, avocado and spinach. The onions are wild onions from our garden.”
When I’m a guest in someone’s home, I don’t like to be a problem, and I tried to walk back my anti-onion statement. “Oh, I can probably eat wild onions,” I said. “It’s those raw white onions I really can’t stand.” By the end of my spiel, I sounded like a person who would like nothing better than a wild onion sandwich for lunch. Which was not the case at all.
To be honest, I actually thought it was bizarre that our host had not considered the fact that some people don’t like onions, despite her seeming willingness to accommodate almost every food-relate issue under the sun. Had I mentioned an intolerance for dairy products, she would have fetched some soy milk for me. Had I mentioned a sensitivity to wheat, gluten-free bread would have been made available. But there was no alternative to the wild onion salad. If I wanted a full lunch, I had to eat it. And I did eat it. And I will admit that fresh, wild onions are much more tolerable than the raw, white onions that I find so disgusting. However, they’re not something I feel the need to eat on a regular basis. Or ever again, really.
So here’s my advice: Don’t assume that people are going to be happy to eat your onions, even if you’re very proud of them because you grew them in your garden. Have some alternative vegetables on hand, just in case your guest is onion hater.
After we left, I turned to Heather and asked, “What happened to the champagne and waffles we were promised?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
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