Ask Erin Cooks

The Onion is My Sworn Enemy. What’s a Girl to Do?

Ask Erin Cooks

Welcome to a new feature on in which I’ll attempt to answer “burning questions” posed to me by honest to goodness real people with actual food related concerns. Need some advice? You can always Ask Erin Cooks.

Dear ErinCooks: The onion has long been my sworn enemy. I know it adds flavor and whatever to dishes but onions disagree with me so I avoided them. Since I stopped eating Smartfood Popcorn and cereal as meals, became a vegan and started cooking proper food for myself I decided it was time to make my peace with the onion. My body definitely rebelled when I started feeding it vegetables and fruits, but it adjusted and so I started actually adding onions to things when called for and now they don’t bother me. Well, not exactly and that brings me to my onion related questions:

1. I hate handling onions because the smell lingers on my hands and repulses me. Why in the age of convenience food, when you can buy precut everything, can’t I find precut onions? Do they not keep in the cut state? Do they exist and I just can’t find them? Is this the dumbest question you’ve ever heard?

2. If I do indeed have to handle onions, how do I get rid of the smell? Someone told me you can rub lemon on your hands, but then my hands just smell like onions and lemons.

Help me, ErinCooks. You’re my only hope.
— Anna D

Keep Out!  This Means You!

Dear Anna D: This is your lucky day because you can actually buy pre-cut onions (I’ve definitely seen them at Whole Foods). You can also purchase frozen onions but if you tell anyone that you’re doing that they will mercilessly ridicule you (i.e. I will point and laugh). Or you can pre-chop and freeze them yourself for future use. If you do buy pre-cut onions just keep in mind that you’re going to be paying at least twice as much for them.

As for your concern about the onion smell staying on your hands, I’ve never really noticed this with onions. I am however horrified on a daily basis by the smell of garlic on my hands. I’ve woken up many nights in bed completely disgusted by the smell emanating from my hands after having chopped up garlic for a dish. For that reason, I try to touch the garlic as little as possible and wash my hands with a lemon based soap immediately after dropping the smelly stuff into whatever concoction I’m making. Lately I’ve been using a peppermint soap from Williams-Sonoma and that seems to do the trick as well. I think the key is to wash your hands as soon as humanly possible after you come in contact with the ingredient you dislike, and if you still really can’t stand it you could always invest in a package of latex gloves.

I also wonder if you might like using shallots better than onions? In fact, people like Anthony Bourdain recommend that you use shallots instead of onions. Apparently it’s one of the things that make restaurant food taste so great, and why we can never duplicate the flavors at home (you know besides the gallons of cream, oil, and butter of course). Or you could buy one of those Vidalia Chop Wizards. I’ve never used one personally, but they seem to have really good reviews online.