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Thursday, March 22, 2007


I am seriously allergic to onions (and peppers and mushrooms, but I'm talking about onions). This makes eating in restaurants a continuous challenge, as I have to ask the waiter to go ask the cook if something has onions in it before I order it. Which is why I tend to pick one or two things at each restaurant and just order them over and over. It's safer, and if I like something, I don't mind eating it every time I go to the same restaurant. Going to a new restaurant is an adventure akin to eating puffer fish; there is always the possibility I could end up dead. Yes, dead. I have extreme toxic allergies, the kind that cause internal bleeding, paralysis, coma, and death. A piece of onion the size of my thumbnail makes me sick for days, two of them would put me in the hospital, and if I ate three of them, I would be dead before I got the hospital. No joke.

My business partner, Steve Petrick (Vice President of Operations) is allergic to the same things (making everyone think we are brothers). He's a little more allergic to mushrooms than onions, and I'm a little more allergic to onions than mushrooms, but given that the result is death either way, the distinction has no difference.

There is a particular restaurant we eat at once a year on the Origins trip, Sweetwater BBQ at Missouri I-44 mile marker 163. Best Barbeque anywhere, I guarantee. When we walk in, once a year, the lady who runs the place says "Hey, No Onions is Back!"

Most places are fairly nice about my allergies. I went on a cruise once and told the waiter one time what I was allergic to, and every meal he would point out what I could and could not eat. When I was in Germany, the chef at the restaurant we usually ate at personally discussed with me what I could eat, and took it as a honor to prepare special meals for me. (At that restaurant, every meal was prepared individually anyway.) Sometimes I get a waiter or cook who argues that I'm not really allergic (how would he know?), and I have had cooks serve me something with onions then take the onions off of it and bring it back (it still has the onion acid in it, and that's what I am allergic to). Most restaurants will throw it out and start over but some just insist on trying to fool me. I can smell if onions EVER on my plate so quit trying!

The main place I have trouble with is my relatives. My aunts are just absolutely convinced that I "just don't like" onions and would eat them just fine if only they would not tell me that onions are in the food. I can tell, usually about the time I start throwing up. My nose and pallet know how to detect onions and if they do, I tend to automatically vomit to avoid that death thing. My aunts always tell me "You can't even taste them." which leads me to ask "Then why not leave them out?" Of course, they LIKE onions and CAN taste them so why do they think I can not? I was at a football game once when somebody sat down next to me who had, minutes earlier, eaten a chile dog with onions. I got sick and threw up just from smelling the onions on his breath. It was an automatic reaction; my body smelled onions and even though I wasn't actually engaged in eating anything at that particular moment, my body decided that it would rather be safe than dead and ejected the entire contents of my stomach ... just to be sure.

I love watching cooking shows, although mostly to watch the "command style" of the Iron Chefs or Gordon Ramsay. But is is a very rare episode of any cooking show that does not insist on dumping onions and usually mushrooms and often hot peppers into everything just as a matter of course without even thinking. Just once I would like to see Gordan Ramsay start a show saying "Some people, unfortunately, are allergic to onions, so for tonight's episode, I'm going to show you how to cook an interesting dinner without using onions." When I got the Origins Hall of Fame Award for Star Fleet Battles, I was invited to a fancy dinner party where there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that I could eat. Everything had onions and peppers in, and the "alternate" dinner you could special order was mushrooms. And by the time I got my trophy and got out of the meeting, all of the food places in the convention center had closed. Fortunately, the guys playing F&E had tons of food.

What is it with gourmet cooking? Do you absolutely HAVE to burn somebody's tongue with the acid from onions and peppers to convince them they're actually TASTING their food? Trust me, food tastes just fine without onions. I wouldn't eat the things even if I wasn't allergic.