My husband lied to me.
When we went on our first date, I told my future husband that I hated onion. He then told me the greatest thing ever…”Oh, I hate onion too!”. It was at that point that I realized he was perfect for me.
I know, it sounds completely nuts to choose a life partner based on a mutual dislike of onion. If you think about it though, how many people do you know that hate onion? Chances are, if you do know someone that hates it, they are under the age of fourteen. So you can imagine the extreme joy I felt when he and I shared that particular thing in common. It was like a miracle.
We were married two years later. Then things began to change.
I began to notice that he suddenly didn’t mind it so much whenever we came across something with onion in it. He claimed that he still was no fan of onion, but was “too lazy to eat around it”. I cautiously accepted his explanation, but I was worried.
Now here I am, ten years after we had that first date. I now have a husband who likes onion. I have declared that his original assertion that he hated onion was, in fact, “false advertising”.
I still hate it.
I despise it for it’s tendency to be harsh, and the texture is completely unappealing to me. I hate it cooked, I hate it raw. I hate it…period. Biting unknowingly into a piece of onion (no matter how small) is like a special kind of hell reserved just for me. To say that I’m sensitive to the flavor is a massive understatement.
I resent it for being present in even the most pedestrian of dishes. I also accept the reason onion is involved in nearly everything worth cooking. So, I have to be an adult whenever I come across it, even though there are times when I just want to throw a fit upon seeing it.
Most of my cooking life has been spent leaving out onion entirely. Onion flavor itself is very distinct, and it’s difficult to replace. What’s worse is that it is just so damn versatile. I have been getting by for years by pumping up other flavors to sort of “cover” my obvious missing component.
For those few that share my plight, it is possible to leave it out of most recipes. You won’t “ruin” most dishes by doing that, but there are dishes that will taste as though they are “missing something”. It is the worst kind of deficiency…the kind you notice but cannot name.
So what is a girl to do?
Until recently, I was determined to remain unchanged. It was only when I decided to cook my way through Ruhlman’s Twenty that I realized I should start finding ways to compromise a bit. Below are a few things that have worked for me, and a couple of things that might work for you:
1. Pulverize the holy hell out of it.
When I made the Mac and Cheese recipe in Ruhlman’s Twenty, I was delighted that it called for the onion to be blended with a wand blender in the sauce. If you pulverize it, you take out the possibility that you’ll come across a bit that tastes only like onion.
2. Make friends with Onion Powder (or Dried Minced Onion)
My mom used this trick when I was a kid, and I knew she did it. I think it worked because it was easier for her to control how “onion-y” something tasted. By using it sparingly, she was able to make dishes that had a good flavor balance without making it totally unpalatable to her insanely sensitive daughter.
3. Learn to get over it enough to use other, milder onions.
To be clear, I have not tried this. I’ll probably never really get to this point. However, if you can muster the will to allow a little bit of onion flavor in your life, there are a host of “milder” options. Green onion (chives), shallots and leeks are just a few alternatives to the regular onion.
4. Play around with different methods of cooking onion to see what you might like.
I was not kidding when I said that onions are versatile. Their flavor changes drastically depending on the cooking method. If you think you can learn to like them, this is probably the best way to find out how to make them more palatable to you.