The Onion Consortium

Summer is almost over and some hate to see it go. I am not included in that said “some”. I hate to throw the baby out with the bath water (really. I almost did that once and it’s terrible to almost lose a child that way – let alone the sheer embarrassment) but I’m happy to say good-bye to the whole of summer if only to avoid potato salad for another 9 months. I don’t want to be a hater, but I think it’s actually good to get your hate out on things like foods. This can help prevent your hatey feelings from attaching themselves to your fellow humans. I have a couple of ways to hate foods. I hate some specific foods – like onions. And I hate dishes – like potato salad. Potato salads can be made up of multiple other things that I hate, to culminate in a cornucopia of hate.

A couple of days ago I watched as my wife (let’s  call her Cynthia) feed our 1.5 year old (we should call her Iris) some foods. I should say that our kids are pretty good eaters – except for that boy. All he wants to eat is meat and ice cream. I can’t remember when the last time a vegetable crossed his little toothy gate to land safely upon his tongue. Cynthia was giving Iris some mac and cheese, some peaches, and kale (not necessarily in that order). Since I’ve come out strongly about the foods I hate, I’m curious to see what my kids like and hate. I should say that I’ve never talked about hating a particular food in front of my kids. I’m a damn scientist with this stuff. Me talking about hating a food could skew my study. I need this to be accurate. So to that end, I’ve never mentioned my hatred of onions or potato salad. Iris tasted the mac and cheese and grimaced. She reached past the kale and ate a piece of peach. She went on to devour all the peach pieces. Next, Cynthia moved the kale in front of her. I tried not to watch. She put the kale to her lips and a small piece in her mouth. In long enough time for the tongue to dispatch an emergency message to the brain the kale was spit out. Actually, half spit, half dribble, followed by a grimace, followed by a body shudder.

The baby does not lie. The baby has no hidden agenda. The baby’s mouth and tongue and taste buds represent the purest form of selectivity. At this particular dinner study I found that Iris didn’t like mac and cheese and that her body refused kale like a virus. I’m not really a fan of the kale either. Here’s the big secret people. Some foods were only eaten to prevent starvation. I’m no historian, but kale may or may not have fallen into this category. Yes, I understand that it depends on how you prepare a particular food. I’ve had kale that didn’t taste anything like kale and there was not a problem. It went all the way down my food hole with nary a trace of a baby shudder. I guess, my point is that we shouldn’t be expected to like the flavor of everything that passes into our mouths. I think it’s more peculiar to like everything. My dad eats anything. He’s the definition of a “Good Eater”. But, sorry for saying this dad, my garbage also takes any kind of food I put into it.

Early in life I discovered that I really could not stand anything about onions. The problem with disliking foods is that it’s not socially acceptable. Just earlier in this quaint diatribe I mentioned that my kids are “good eaters”. That’s code for “they eat vegetables and stuff even adults don’t really want to eat.” Like many aspects of society, if you’re fed something long enough you start to be ok with it and possibly even believe it’s good. I could not buy into the onion. Some place deep in a cave, on some island near the coast of these United States I believe there is the headquarters for the Onion Consortium (The OC). It’s so far underground that the Onion growers don’t really know how they are being dictated to. The OC has somehow indoctrinated generations of people into thinking onions are great. For example, even if someone is brave enough to say they don’t like onions, they usually put the onion in charge by saying something like, “Onions just don’t agree with me.” This says, I wish I could like the onion, but it doesn’t want ME. The OC is so powerful that other organizations started to try to mimic what they were doing. In the 1950s the American Dairy Assoc., after looking at the success of the onion, got the devious plan to trick people into drinking milk. They brilliantly got the government to make them the most important food of all the “food groups”. Think about it. We’re the only animal that, after our children stop drinking mother’s milk (or pretend mother’s milk) we ween them onto another animals teet milk – for life. And, to top it off, if you don’t drink that other animal’s teet milk do you know what’s going to happen? That’s right, your bones will break.

It’s not a popular battle to go up against the onion. The onion is dumped into everything. Everyone wants to ride on the coattails of The OC. No one wants to cross the onion. There was even a TV show a few years ago that took its name from The Onion Consortium. I never watched it but I can only assume that whatever it was the backdrop was burger stands with hamburgers bathed in onions or summers filled with potato salads encrusted with onions.

Which brings me to your potato salad. I’m so sorry, but I hate your potato salad. This isn’t a personal thing. Growing up I loved all my aunts and grandmothers dearly. But at every 4th of July picnic I passed over every three bean salad (usually 5 different beans and onions) and I passed over every version of potato salad even though occasionally there would be one not containing onions – it’s not worth the risk. I understand, you worked hard to prepare that potato salad – or did you? It’s ok. I didn’t bring anything, so I can’t complain. But didn’t you just boil the potatoes, cut them up, cut up a bunch of raw celery, maybe boil a couple of eggs, and top it off with the successful root known as the onion and slather it with mayo? I love you dearly, but I need the non cooks in the room to know that you didn’t really do that much work. It was easy and why shouldn’t it be. It’s summertime and you just wanted to get to the lake and sit in the breeze like all of us.

All the aunts and grandmothers would stand someplace near the main table to play their attentive roles in restocking the table, all with the hidden agendas of pushing their own dishes through their special honed skills of guilt and modesty. One of my aunts made Gazpacho. This is the mother of all lazy summer meals riding the coattails of the onion. This is raw tomatoes, tomato juice, onions, peppers and an assortment of other seasonings in the form of soup. The final slap in the face from the onion and its mauradering summer friends is that the soup is cold. It’s just like saying here’s a bowl of “who the hell cares.” As I passed by the untouchables straight to the brats, I noticed one of my aunts talking softly into her collar. Either her Tourettes was kicking up or she was secretly reporting me to The Onion Consortium.

Now that our kids are 8, 4, and 1.5 I will need to continue my food experimentations and studies. Thus far, none of my kids like onions. I have had no hand in that. Cynthia loves them like the good brainwashed food soldier she is and has attempted to slide them into the kids diets. Eventually, she will probably convert them to the onion. After all, what kid expects their mommy dearest to give them something to eat that is not edible. Maybe it’s for the best that they be like everybody else. I don’t know if I want to wish my life of onion avoidance on them. As quick as I’ve become at removing onions from meals and disguising the occasional shudder when I accidentally swallow one of the little poison slivers, I don’t think I want them to be the social outcast that I’ve been. Maybe I could teach them to stand up for something more meaningful than hating onions and potato salad. On the other hand, I have really enjoyed hating these foods for going on 40 years. Someone has to fight the good fight.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

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