Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Trouble With Onions

I was going to begin this post by saying, "I've never cared for onions."
But then I realized that would be a lie.
I used to LOVE onions when I was a child. They were great! I could eat them raw and everything. I remember my grandmother had this dish that consisted of sliced cucumbers and sliced onions, layered in a dish. On top of it went a whole bunch of vinegar and some salt & pepper. That was it! I loved those, and I distinctly remember I would rarely bother with the cucumbers-- I'd pick out the onions with my bare fingers, happily eating them raw while the vinegar dripped down my chin. The onions were the best part, I thought, so why even bother with the cucumbers?
That was then.
Something strange must have happened when I hit adolescence. Something chemically weird must have hit me, and it happened almost overnight. All of a sudden one day I bit into a hamburger that had onions on it. Instantly the anti-onion revulsion hit me. I actually had to spit out the bite of hamburger; there was no way I could swallow it.
Somehow I had acquired a severe aversion to onions. And it was far more powerful than simply a case of "Oh, I just don't like those anymore." Onions were now able to make me sick. The very smell of them could make me throw up. I couldn't be in a room where onions were being sliced. Dishes I previously loved (like the aforementioned cucumbers and onions) were now 100% off-limits. Now I wasn't even able to eat a cucumber slice, if it had been swimming next to a piece of onion. Something about the oils/essence of a fresh onion produced a seriously negative reaction in my body. And that continues to this day.
If I accidentally bite into a piece of onion, I immediately stop chewing as I realize what has just happened. Sometimes I can force myself to at least swallow what I've already got in my mouth, sometimes I need to spit it out. Either way, I inevitably gag.
I remember a few years after this first happened, I was visiting my aunt for dinner. She was making lasagna. Someone must have told her I didn't eat onions. And she apparently didn't take that very seriously, because her solution was to blenderize the onions into a pulp and layer them on top of everything. It's as if she thought I just didn't like to look at them, and if I couldn't see them, I wouldn't notice.
One of my pet peeves is people who say "Oh, you can just pick the onions off; it's no big deal."
My response to this is: "If I took a crap on your pizza, would you just pick the turd off and eat it anyway?"
Even when the onion is picked off, the onion oils are still there. It can still be tasted. It can still make me sick.
It's as if I have acquired an allergy to onions. That's the only thing I can think of, since this aversion goes way beyond a simple "dislike". For example, I dislike beets and brussels sprouts, yet I'm sure if I was honestly starving within an inch of my life, I could at least eat them to stay alive. But onions are different. The gag-reaction it produces is so immediate, so violent, I honestly couldn't eat them, even to stave off starvation, whether I wanted to or not.
As a curious side note, I've noticed that the freshness of the onion has a direct correlation to the level of my aversion. I can not be in the same room as a freshly-cut onion. I absolutely will gag violently. No joke. But after the onion has been processed and re-processed and processed to death, I'm much more tolerant of it.
Onion powder, for example. I can easily eat things that have been seasoned with onion powder.
Sour cream and onion potato chips. Not a problem.
Funyuns. Not a problem.
Durkee canned-french-fried onions. Not a problem.
As far as onion rings go, well, that depends on how much the onions have been processed. If we're talking about freshly sliced and deep-fried onions-- the kind where you can still pull out an actual ring of onion from the batter, NO WAY. Not a chance. But if they're super-minced and processed into oblivion, like Burger King onion rings, well, those are ok. I have no problem with Burger King onion rings. (They make me fart like a motorboat, but that's another topic entirely).
So that's my whole sordid oniony past. It's odd how often I forget that I really used to love them.


Anonymous said...

ssshheeeeee's back!
fart like a motor boat!
hee hee

ick -- I love onions, and those make me gag. go figure!

onionboy said...

how am i supposed to not take this personally?

Janna said...

Morgen: Funyuns are yummy!

Onionboy: LOL! Sorry about that. No offense intended. I'm sure you're just as yummy as the Funyuns. :)

Julie said...

Hey there! I was doing a search for onions and gag reactions to them and I came across your blog. Unlike you I have hated onions ever since I can remember. But I can totally relate to literally wanting to gag when they're in my food. People think I'm crazy! I totally love your response to when people tell you just pick them off. I think I'm going to have to use that! Thanks for making me smile & knowing that there's people like me out there :)

Janna said...

Julie: Hi! Thanks for letting me know I'M not the only one, either! We should form a support group. :)

Baculus said...

I also hate onions, but I have hated them since I was a child. I just cannot eat them, and if I discover that they are in a food I am eating, then that dish is over. They are just nasty to me, and my dad's stories of eating onion sandwiches when he was a kid just served to fill me with revulsion. The funny thing is, I occasionally meet another onion hater, and we usually exchange stories of our onion hatred. Funny.

Anonymous said...

OMG I am the same exact way...I have the onion Gag and vomit reflex! But at the same time I can do Funnuns and Bruger King... It's very

Anonymous said...

I am finally not alone! I hate onions and the worst kind are GREEN ONIONS!!!! Fortunatey, they are not in everything, but regular onions are. I have to read the back of boxes before I buy food to make sure they are not in there, and if the list is long they usually are.I have thrown out so much food, not been able to eat my meals in resturants, just because it is so common for people to use onions.It makes life hard---I can eat meals when I visit friends and family---they are everywhere!

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see that I'm not alone. I have had people tell me all my life that it is just in my head. The smell or taste of raw onion will make me gag and even vomit. As a kid, once I figured this out, I actually used this to get out of school. Small bite and I was at the toilet immediately. I have always called it an allergy but don't know what it really is. Sucks because everyone cooks with onions. Unless cooked thoroughly, I can't eat the dish.


David said...

Found your page by typing "I hate onions" into google. My main problem with them is that they are just thrown in with so many foods as if "oh these will add just a little bit more flavour to the dish". No. They ARE the flavour as soon as they are added to anything. You can have a load of different sandwiches in the fridge and one sandwich with onion on it and it is certain that ALL the sandwiches will taste of onion. Sometimes it isn't even labelled when a product contians onion as if it's just a little inoffensive flavour amongst all the other stuff. No, it's offensive alright. I just don't think the onion likers of the world realise how horrible it is to dislike onions and have them spread everywhere. I think it hinders my adventurousness with food as I can never be certain that something I've not tried will not contain onions. So yeah to sum up, people/ food vendors etc should't just assume that onions are an automatic choice for ingredients. Onions tend to take over and to people who dislike them that's the food ruined. said...

Heyyy ,,im not alone...:)
I have the same trouble with onions...who knows how to cure this problem????

Callie Holtran said...

I'm very curious to know if you also have an aversion to garlic. My father does--very inconvenient when I have my parents to dinner, but that's just the way it's always been. Thanks-

Janna said...

Hi, everyone!
Thanks so much for all the comments. It's great to know I'm not alone. :)

To Callie: Oddly enough, I LOVE garlic. Garlic is absolutely delicious. It's chemically similar to onions, though, so my digestive system still reacts. It's just that with garlic, the reaction takes the form of gas. Lots of gas. Enough gas to heat a small village, if the villagers were indeed that desperate.

Anonymous said...

Onions were the forbidden fruit guarded by a flaming sword until Christ came ot save us all from ourselves and the death caused by these cursed forms of plant life!

Onions smell like pubescent armpits and burn your eyes like mace to the face. And if that's not enough, they stink up your neighborhood when cooked, your breath when eaten, and your rear air conditioning when digested!

I worked at Burger King for months with onions and thought I was used to the smell, so I tried one. I nearly added onion-flavored-puke to the special sauce container!

What is the world's fascination with Onions anyway? Gag me with a captal Ewwww.


Janna said...

Anonymous: LOL @ "rear air conditioning." :)
So true.
Although I like Burger King AND McDonalds, one of the things I like about BK is that their cheeseburgers do NOT automatically contain onions, so I don't have to go through the fuss of making a special request. McD's though, DO have onions by default on their burgers. So I always have to make sure to ask for "no onions". Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don't. :(

Herb Severing said...

Oh yeah,
seems you're a lot like myself.

I was said having enjoyed onions while I was still a toddler. Can't really believe that crap.

I cannot remember enjoying the taste of onions of any kind, nor leek, nor chives.
It's exactly how you described it, getting merely an olfactory encounter makes me want to throw up.

Potato salad is real bad.

Kept to that aversion until know, at age 64.
Friends and relations knew about it. As far as potato salad is concerned, I get my own without onions while being with good friends.

Processed onions are fine with me.
I can tolerate hot-temperature-cooked onions in Chinese dishes by avoiding onion chunks, bits and pieces.
At the age of 30, I found out that garlic is different, very different, indeed.
I was treated with garlic at a fine six-course home-cooked meal. Our friends talked me into trying garlic. Wouldn't have done so under normal circumstances.
(If you dislike onions, garlic will be worse, my mother always had told me. That's why I never tried it.)
A certain amount of fine red wine lowered my resistance. Tremendous blushing, maybe caused by combining alcohol and garlic, agreeable, though. Kept on during that night, a Saturday night, thank God.

Never had problems with garlic then, used sparsely.

I get along.
Real fine French-type restaurants make the onion taste disappear by using chopped shallots heated to extreme temperatures. The better the restaurant the less molestion by onion taste.

The problem is family and friends, but they know(all, hopefully).


BK said...

I was googling something like 'I gag to onions" or "onion sensitivity" and I found this. I just want to say that I am incredibly happy to find someone else that reacts to onions like me. I don't know what it is. I love garlic, and I am fine with onion powder too. And apparently I also liked onions in my childhood. But since as far back as I can remember, just one hint of onion and I am immediately gagging and there's at least a %50 chance I will puke, depending on strength of onion taste and location. I also hate the smell of raw onions too. Actually I just avoid the room all together when someone is cutting one.

I don't know why it is so hard for people to accept onion aversion. It's not just a simple matter as being a picky eater. Like you said, if I were starving and all I had access to was an onion, I would be screwed. lol My mom has only now finally recognized somewhat that I can't eat onion and I can't eat anything that has touched or sat in the stench of an onion. She used to lie to me and say there weren't onions in it, thinking I wouldn't notice. You'd think the gagging would have eventually gave her a clue. Anyways, thanks to that, I always inspect my food first if I didn't cook it. I have food trust issues.

Everyone probably already knows this, but just in case here's a tip for fellow onion haters:
If ordering a burger at Mickey Ds, ask for no pickles too. Because often there will be little bits of onion hiding all up in those pickles. DX

So yeah, now I try to remember to say I am allergic to onions when ordering food. My mother is the one who gave me that idea, actually. She has come a long way. lol

I accidentally bit into a radish once and I had the same reaction. Maybe it is some kind of allergy?

BK said...

And holy crap that rant is long. So sorry!

DK said...

Yet another onion gagger here. my cousin, a chef, found this out recently, and was like "HOW DO YOU EAT. WE PUT ONIONS IN EVERYTHING."

Anonymous said...

I developed my onion aversion at the age of 58. No kidding, I loved onions, ordered double on hoagies! Loved, loved, loved tomato and onion salad as well as cuke and onions. My favorite foods were a vidalia onion tart and onion omelets. I don't know what happened this fall, I cannot stand onions or being around them and this is difficult as my husband still enjoys onions on everything. I miss my onions. This picking apart prepared food and restaurant dishes to rid them of onions is a pain. Neither of my kids liked onions growing up and now I see the other side. Help!

Anonymous said...

OMG I THOUGHT I WAS ALL ALONE. I just googled this because im so sick of having this problem. i came home starving to a delicious chicken salad sandwich and when i took a bite i immediately felt nauseous and spit it out while i gagged. Sure enough saw a TINY slither of onion in there that my mom swore she didnt put in there intentionally. I hate this lol people think im being a picky eater and dramatic but it really is a problem!!

BreezieGirl said...

I realize this post is super old, but I've had a couple encounters with onions recently (normally I'm able to avoid them entirely) and I typed in a search this morning after half my Subway sandwich was destroyed by one tiny onion.

I'm glad I'm not alone in this - especially the "eat around it" comments. I seriously feel like it must be some sort of allergy and not just "I don't like it." I've never liked them and I literally cannot tolerate them.

Janna said...

BreezieGirl (AND everyone else who's commented): Thanks for all these comments! I love the fact that we're all being reassured we're not alone in this. I'm glad I'm not the only one with the bizarre onion allergy. Thank you all for commenting on this post, even if it is seven years old! I still love reading comments on this. :)

T-REZ said...

My first memory of gagging from onions was when I was in pre-school. Lunchtime was casserole, whatever the hell that was, I was thinking. Bit in and could not swallow for the life of me. "This tastes f*ckin horrible", I was thinking as a 3 year old. The gag factor set in. It was over. I guess I started being a picky eater after that, not knowing if I'll gag or not from food. It was the onions, I later discovered.

Grew up not wanting to eat anything that even resembled an onion. Now I can't stand any form of onions whatsoever. Sometimes I've tried to force myself to eat onions to man up, but some sort of chemical imbalance kicks in and signals my brain to make me hurl. The worst, for me, is fried onions. The flavour and smell is overpowering and brings me to a fetal position.

Miss out on all kinds of meals being cooked by family and friends. "Is there onions in it?" I ask. "No"... Sure enough, nice, cooked, onion chunks I see. I actually have an uncanny ability of identifying onions from a messy mix of food. I'll pick all of them out if I still want to salvage the rest of the meal (which is often impossible). Thinking, "Wow this meal would be amazing if there no traces of onions in it."

Always wondered what the commotion over onions was?? Sometimes I would feel obligated to try and eat a meal to save face, sometimes just pounding water and swallowing whole will help the cause. But then it's in my system and I feel dirty.

These days everyone knows I'm an onion hater. I'm pretty straight up with people about it, and make sure they're in no meal I'm considering ordering. People are like "WTF is wrong with you?". I say the same thing back. Onions will not defeat me.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see other people have my problem and that I am not alone. (well, not glad that we all have this problem, but you know what I mean).
It sucks to not be able to trust any food that you didn't make.

Eating out is a nightmare!

I have learned to eat before I go to events/gatherings, or bring something along.

Jennifer Evans said...

Onions to me are a severe form of unsavory that my loved ones still don't understand. My husband loves those detested bulbs so out of love I force myself once in a while to handle one to cut enough so he can add it to his food once it's on his plate. Away from mine. Far away from mine. But like most of you if I even so much as lick an onion that gag reflex kicks in and all heck breaks loose with my taste buds and my stomach is angry at me for a while. It's No fun for anybody. And on top of that i get all those exaggerate comments to from anyone who bears witness to my reaction. And my loving family still doesn't get that " cutting big enough chunks so you can identify the onion and remove it" still leaves a offensive taste to an otherwise nice meal. i dont mind onion powder. In fact i quite enjoy it. Why they cant just use that and have onions on their own time even if in their mind they are just humoring me is a mystery to me. My mom hates ham. And peanut butter. Never have i made a dish with either and served it to her. My dad will eat anything and doesnt understand others do not hold such indifference to whats in their food. The only one in my family that has my back is my son. Were not above telling people were allergic just to be sure those offensive things come nowhere near anything we put in our mouths. An onion tampers with potentially good food. End of story.

Anonymous said...

This is honestly the best thing I've ever read. You described 100% what I have experienced in my life. Even the part where it first developed. After being ok with onions as a kid, I bit into a McDonalds burger around age 9 and instantly gagged. The onions made me physically sick. Since then I've never, ever been able to put a piece of onion in my mouth without violently gagging. I can even tell if veggies have been sliced with the same knife as an onion, instant gag. Nobody believes me either! All I ever hear is "oh you just don't like them." I also strongly dislike brussels sprouts and asparagus but I can eat them if need be. And onion powder? Not a problem at all. Definitely going to use the retort about picking a crap off your food then eating it. That's gold.

I've done some research and it seems like many people are allergic to the volatile oils in onions. That explains why onion powder is ok.

Thanks for this post. It absolutely made my day.

Fingers crossed for an onion famine :)

Anonymous said...

I absolutely understand your problem! You're way ahead of me, though, if you can eat onions in any form. Onions...even onion powder...make me throw up until my stomach is cramping and my throat feels raw. It's an allergy to any sulfites. That could be an allergy to sulfa antibiotics (which I definitely, absolutely have), or any food, beer, or wine that contains sulfites. I love a glass or two of white wine in the evening, and I would hate to give this up. Right now, for the past 3 months, I have an itchy (very itchy) rash all over my torso, and it's now slowly creeping down my arms and legs! If the sulfites in my wine are causing this, I'll have to give it up! I just checked the label, and there's no info about what's in the wine. Every box, bottle, can, in my pantry gives this info in detail...but the white wine...nothing!

Anonymous said...

I know this post is super old, but I, like so many other commenters, share your extreme onion aversion. And no, no one understands! Onion powder, funyuns, bk onion rings (I even love some rings that are not THAT processed, I just pull out the onion and eat the breading), french fried onions are all fine. But as soon as I bite into a raw or cooked onion, it's game over gagging. I've considered if it was taste, texture, or an allergy. No idea. I know that I absolutely cannot be around cutting onions. My eyes burn so much it hurts really badly. I had to be sent home from school one day in 9th grade because we were making salsa in Spanish class and, despite my many protests, I was assigned to chopping the onion. I love to cook and I unapologetically use onion powder in place of onions in everything.

Unknown said...

I have just come across this and yipppeeee. I too suffer with the gag reflex and even my beloved of 16 years thinks its psychological. Now i say i have allergies and after reading all of your messages I believe it is. Thank you for posting this !

Nope nope00 said...

Yes! You posted everything i have tried to explain is going on when i bite onion. Even when people tell me that there is a small amlunt and i would never detect onion, i will always detect the smallest morsel like some super-human onion detector. (By the way, stay far away from cheesy rice-a-roni)
I used to eat green onion like celery according to my grandma, but at the age of 8 i couldnt even put one near my teeth .


I always thought it was quite unusual until i saw a woman who gagged at a bite of raw onion on a K-drama called Color of Woman

grrrr! said...

I accidentally bit into a pearl onion in a salad once thinking it was some sort of pasta. Immediately gagged. Suppressed the gag. Tried to force myself to swallow it. Gagged again. Told myself I'm a grown-up. Just swallow the damn thing. Could. Not. Do. It. Ran and got a napkin and spat it out. The onions always win.