Rant published on ABBAMAIL Oct 2004

What part of "no onions" do you not understand?

Obviously, the part about "no onions."

On going battle with me.

I just can't eat onions. Now, I don't have a severe allergic reaction to them. My tongue does not swell up and make it hard to breathe (which happens when I eat marashino cherries). I do not get a headache (which happens when I eat bread or anything with wheat flour in it). I do not get sinus congestion (which I get from eating dairy.) But I do get an awful burning sensation in my stomach, and I can feel the onions permeating my pores and I usually need to have at least one shower and do an apricot face scrub (which isn't such a bad thing really.) I also just don't like the taste. I don't understand why people would put onions in anything.

Instead, people will put onions in almost anything. Why on earth would you put raw onions in a perfectly innocent salad? Hamburgers don't need onions, they work perfectly well without them. Why would you put onions in soup? They get mushy and are hard to fish out. If you cant' taste them, why put them in in the first place?

Raw onions, which are the worst (ie most potent and evil) are bad because they leak onion juice onto the surrounding foods. But cooked onions are more insidious. They try to blend in. They become clear and soft. Sometimes you don't know they are lurking in your food until it is too late and they are in your mouth and then it's too late. You're chewing and suddenly there's that awful, familiar crunch that you pray is a stray piece of lettuce, but then there's that horrible skunk like taste that bleeds into the corners of your mouth and soaks into your tongue and it's too late. It's much too late.

Onions, simply put, are the devil's elixir.

The worst is Mexican food. Maybe Mexicans have paler taste buds and they need to put onions in everything just to be aware that they are eating actual food. Onions in the salsa. Onions in the meat. Onions in the guacamole. Onions in the carrots. Onions in the freakin re-fried beans. And if that's not enough onions, they sprinkle them on top as if it were a garnish.

But whatever. As far as I'm concerned, people can sleep with whoever they want to sleep with. People can drive whatever car they want to drive (including none if that is what they want.) People can wear whatever clothes they want, however ill advised. And people can eat whatever they want. You like anchovies? Pile them on, it only means there's less around for me to accidentally eat. Mayonnaise? Horrendous stuff, but you go for it. Suck it down. Just don't splash any on my food. And onions? If you like em, eat em.

But don't force your sordid onion habits onto my dinner plate, thank you very much. Don't casually toss them into my soup. Don't hide them in my salad. And for gods sake, don't cut them up into tiny onion bits and say, "you won't notice them." Yes, I will notice them, and if they are cut up tiny I can't fish them out. Your onion arrogance has ruined my dinner.

There's a Mexican taco stand on my way home from the gym. I am always hungry after the gym, and the food there is good.

It's a delicate game, though, with the girl who takes the orders. First of all, she can't speak English, which, sadly is not unusual, but is none the less very frustrating for both of us. Darling, this is L.A. and you're in the window of a food service on Hyperion Blvd. Your primary clientele is going to be English speaking. How on earth can you get through a day without understanding what people are ordering? I get frustrated with her, or with myself because I can't speak Spanish, but then I feel sorry for her and find myself speaking in basic grunts with lots of hand gestures. What is the international hand gesture for "no onions, please"?

I order the same thing every time. My diet is restricted (see above) so I usually don't have much of a selection to choose from. So I order the two taco dinner special. That's two soft tacos in corn tortillas, with pork or chicken. Now that regularly comes with a side of beans and a side of rice. Which in itself, is all good.


The cook, after carefully assembling the soft taco shells, lovingly sauteeing the pork and placing it gently on the shells, then gets out his big scoop spoon and dumps a huge glob of salsa, which is really just raw onions and cut up tomato parts with a splash of cilantro. Lord knows why anyone would want that on their food.

The first time I went there, I said, "no onions." But my tacos came with the salsa, which includes mostly onions. When I complained, she said, "that's pico de galla."

So the next time I asked for no onions and no pico de galla. I also ask for no rice, which thoroughly confuses her, but she can deal with that apparently, and I only occasionally get rice in my food.

So I go there maybe once or twice a week, on my way home from the gym, and always order the exact same thing, and she always looks at me like she doesn't understand what I'm asking for or why I would be asking for it.

Onion arrogance.

Last night, my order, as always: "two taco dinner, no onions, no pico de galla, no guacamole (another long story but they use the powdered guacamole mix which tastes like they scraped it off the back of a tire) and no rice please."

I often feel that I am defined more by what I am not, than what I am. Certainly, with regards to what I eat, there's more on the NO side of the chart than on the YES side.

Last night, I was watching through the window as the cook carefully assembled the taco shells, lovingly sauteed the pork and gently placed it in the tacos, and then, in a moment that seemed to move in slow motion but in fact took less than two seconds, he reached into the vat of salsa with his big scoop spoon, filled it to the brim, and dumped it all over my tacos.

Oh, the humanity.

But he did it with such grace, such care, with such a swift gesture, it was so picturesque, it was almost like watching figure skating. The onions were the dash of pinache that completed the work of art. The onions were the jaunty cap that is placed ever so slightly askew the French man's head. The dash of whipped cream on the sundae.

And then it was too late. Onions had permeated my otherwise innocent dinner. He held it up to the server girl with such satisfaction that, aside from being too hungry to argue, and too frustrated to try and explain to the non English speaking server, I felt it would have been just too insulting to send it back and make him do it over again.

I spent more time picking out all the onions than I did eating the rest of my dinner. And of course, I couldn't get them all out. Plus, the onion/salsa juice got all over the meat and the tortillas, so it was an unintended orgy of onion in my mouth, despite my best intentions.

So now I sit here, with an apricot face scrub (which isn't a bad thing really), hoping to get rid of the onion essence that is assimilating itself through my body and permeating my skin.

Onion arrogance.

Rod Reynolds

©2004 The Art Dept Los Angeles

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