Thursday, August 04, 2011

Allergic, Emotionally Allergic

Onions and I have a long history. In my youth, I thought little of them. They were not an enemy, or friend. They were just a part of the world in which I existed. I bore no particular feeling toward onions except mild notice. I encountered them in many guises -- carmelized, dehydrated, freshly picked, even pickled -- but only nodded in passing. I was unmoved when I heard that ancient Egyptians worshiped onions. They worshiped a lot of things. I was impressed, but not surprised, by the many medicinal uses of onions. In brief, onions to me were like the neighbor who lives 3 doors down: too far away to be concerned about having over; too close not to wave at when you drive by. Once upon a time onions and I lived at peace, as casual acquaintances. Peace, I say.

Then, one day, when I was about 4, I got a load of slimy onions on a McDonald's cheeseburger. A sour crunchy slime filled my mouth, and poisoned my palate. Even now, in the space long years, I get queasy thinking about that sensation of crunchy slime. It was clear, in that moment, that onions and I would no longer be casual acquaintances. Onions had become the neighbor who lives 3 doors down and mows his lawn in a bathrobe with an extremely loud speaker system on his front porch blasting obnoxious x-rated rap music. From thenceforth, I'd peaceably -- but militantly -- avoid all onions. Onions and I developed a sort of truce of avoidance. At least, that was my understanding at the time. A frail peace, no more, existed between me and allium cepa, aka Mr. Vidalia, aka the onion. Frail peace, I say.

The next time I went to McDonald's (about a week later) I ordered a cheeseburger, and distinctly said, "No onions." In my innocence, I prognosticated an onion free cheeseburger in my future. I bit down into my cheeseburger, expecting only to be sated with ketchup, mustard, imitation pickles, soy-beef, and bun. How wrong I was. Overpowering everything, once again, was that slimy onion taste. Since that day, I have been "allergic" to onions. I can't stand the taste of onions, not even a little. I can't stand the thought, especially, of cooked onions. I had been, till then, resigned to co-exist peaceably in a world where onions lived 3 doors down. Onions and I had called a truce. The truce was now in jeopardy.

This truce ended once and for all when my mom joined the fray, as a spy, on the side of onions. My dad loves onions, and wanted them on everything. My mom, caught betwixt my hatred, and my dad's love, of onions decided to take the middle road. She would slyly chop up onions into very small, almost imperceptible, pieces, and "hide" them in dinner. This way, my dad got onions, and I -- seemingly --didn't. I lived in fear of onions from 5-15.

Of course, I caught onto my mom's ruse quickly, and developed an even stronger dislike of onions. I became the FBI of onion detectors. If my mom served me ice cream, I was scraping through it, sure an onion was in there somewhere. Onions became the neighbor who lives 3 doors down, sneaks into your house when your not there, bribes your own mom, and steals all your electronic equipment.

I've struggled over the years to describe my aversion to onions. I find myself explaining my aversion in restaurants, to friends, and to anyone who is having me for dinner. For a long while, I felt it was appropriate to say, simply, "I'm allergic to onions." It is true that the moment an onion touches my tongue I become nauseous. Lately, though, I've decided this in not entirely accurate. Thus, I now say, "I am allergic to onions, emotionally allergic."

I'm allergic to onions, emotionally. Yet, onions won't leave me alone. Even though I carefully read ingredient labels, onions still show up -- unannounced and uninvited -- in my frozen dinners when I take them from the microwave. I now have a roommate. Guess what? He keeps a fresh onion on top of the refrigerator at all times, "just in case." In case, what? In case a vampire comes over? In case the swine flu breaks out again? I was surfing the internet last week and came across this: a popular news site has emerged the last few years. Its name? "The Onion." Is all this coincidence? I don't think so.

Onions are now to me like the neighbor who lived 3 doors down, mowed his lawn with a flourish of obscenity, and then bribed my own mom to conspire against me, and then broke into my house and stole my stuff, and then got kicked out of his onion house, and then moved in with me uninvited, and hacked into my computer.

Yeah, you could say I'm allergic to onions, emotionally allergic.

-by CK

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