PEELING AWAY LAYERS OF THE ‘ONION CONSPIRACY’
by Todd Hartley
If there’s one thing that defines me as a human being (other than the words “brilliant,” “handsome” and “modest,” of course), it’s that I despise onions. I despise them the way Tea Partiers despise Obama, the way Mahmoud Ahmadinejad despises Israel, the way my son despises nap time. In short, it would be virtually impossible for someone to dislike anything as much as I dislike onions.
At least, I would have thought it was virtually impossible, but a recent incident in Oregon has made me realize there’s someone out there who hates onions nearly as much as I do, and, as you can probably imagine, that person is now my latest hero.
Here’s the story: Last week, in Gresham, Ore., 50-year-old Jayme John Leon went to a McDonald’s, ordered a quarter-pounder with no onions and left the restaurant. When he got home, however, he apparently found onions on his burger, so he called the offending McDonald’s to complain. An employee there told him that if he came back in, the restaurant would refund his money and give him a new burger.
Leon then returned to the McDonald’s without the burger but with the cup of soda he’d ordered. He was told that since he’d eaten the burger, he was not eligible for a refund. That caused Leon to snap, sending him into what one police officer dubbed a “McFury.” He threw his soda in the manager’s face, broke some glass, smashed a cash register and then drove triumphantly away, only to be arrested shortly thereafter.
Now, while I don’t condone smashing cash registers or throwing drinks in people’s faces, I totally understand what Leon was going through. That’s how maddening onions can be to those of us who fully appreciate just how disgusting they are; they’re so wretched that they can cause people to go temporarily insane.
Let’s examine the facts, shall we? Fact No. 1: Onions are the most foul-tasting things on the planet. Fact No. 2: Onions are so acrid and vile that just chopping them up brings tears to one’s eyes. Fact No. 3: Anyone who has recently eaten onions can peel paint off walls with their rancid breath for the next week or so.
But it isn’t just that onions taste like Satan’s own feces that’s the problem. You see, those of us who despise onions truly believe that there is a secret conspiracy among cooks to slip onions into everything they create. (I, for one, believe they are all taking money from the ultra-powerful onion lobby, but I can’t prove it.)
For some reason, restaurants have decided they don’t have to include onions in the list of ingredients for their menu items. Why is that? If there’s one freaking peanut in a restaurant, they’re practically required to post huge signs alerting customers to that fact. Why are they allowed to gloss over onions?
Here’s a perfect case in point: Years ago, I was having breakfast at a café in Costa Rica. There were two omelettes on the menu. The first contained “hongos y cebollas,” or mushrooms and onions. The second had “jamon y queso,” or ham and cheese. Naturally, I ordered the one with the ham and cheese under the assumption that it would contain those two ingredients.
One would think that since the café listed onions as an ingredient in the first omelette, the second omelette, which didn’t say anything about onions, probably wouldn’t have them, right? Wrong. The omelette I was served had trace amounts of ham and cheese and about three pounds of onions. I almost threw up just looking at it.
Obviously, I was incensed. I didn’t smash any cash registers or break any glass, but had I known that was an option, I might have responded differently. I could give you other surreptitious onion examples, such as the breakfast burrito I had the other day, but one anecdote is probably enough.
The capper, though, was the experience I had yesterday when I volunteered to help my son’s kindergarten class make soup. I showed up eager to help, and, proving that no good deed goes unpunished, I had to dig up onions from the garden. Overwhelmed by the foul smell, I nearly fainted, but I managed to pass the disgusting vegetables off to someone else before darkness overcame me.
The whole incident left me feeling so dirty that when I got home I just sat in the shower and wept for about an hour. I’ll probably bear the emotional scars for the rest of my life.
Todd Hartley’s not very fond of shallots either, but he doesn’t make a big deal out of it.