Not the *pickled* onions, by Deb Emily

Emily Winslow by Jonathan PlayerThanksgiving (1997) is the day I met my husband.

I’d heard about him for years. My best friend met him when she had a semester abroad at Cambridge University. He was a grad student then, and they became good friends. They *almost* kissed one evening, but didn’t. She had a crush on him at the time, but, as they kept their friendship over the years, she decided he and I would be a better match. It took five years for her to get us in the same room, over Thanksgiving turkey. We married eight months later.

He’s a better cook than I am, so every year he takes on my mother’s Thanksgiving recipes. It’s kind of hard to make them in England, because the ingredients aren’t always available. First of all, just getting a fresh turkey is a drama. Turkeys are traditionally Christmas-only here. And we even had a heck of a time getting an oven that can fit one! Europeans are serious about being green, which is great, but which also means so much insulation in ovens that there’s not a lot of room for *food*.

My favorite Thanksgiving dish is creamed onions. I think this is the kind of thing you have to have grown up with to crave. It’s not something to eat on its own so much as it’s something to put on a fork with a little bit of stuffing, a little bit of cranberry, and little bit of turkey. It has a strong flavor that makes a great accent.

We like to share Thanksgiving, and ask our guests if they’d like to make some of the side dishes. Last year our intrepid co-host ran into the same problem we do: cocktail onions are non-existent here, EXCEPT in their pickled version.

The result was so hilariously oderous that we had to keep the dish covered or take it out of the room. If you try this at home, learn from that mistake: NOT pickled onions, okay?

Here’s the recipe:


  • 3 cans or jars of boiled onions (1 to 1 1/2 sized onions, i.e. small)
  • 6 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 cup of fresh parsley
  • 2 cups of skimmed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup of sherry


  1. Make a roux with butter, flour and milk.
  2. Add chopped parsley
  3. Add onions, drained; use the liquid for other recipes if required
  4. Add cloves and nutmeg
  5. Add sherry
  6. Stir everything in
  7. Cook in a double boiler for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every half hour or fortyfive minutes.

5 Replies to “Not the *pickled* onions, by Deb Emily”

  1. Creamed onions were a staple on my grandmother’s Thanksgiving and Christmas menus… so much so that I wouldn’t dream of a holiday without them, even if I am the only one eating them. And you are so right – they are infinitely enhanced by a little bit of stuffing and cranberries on the fork at the same time!

  2. That’s pretty funny about the pickled onions. The cook in me can’t help commenting that you should be able to make this with raw pearl onions from the green grocer. Just peel them and par boil (maybe add some salt to the water for flavour) until you can pierce them with a fork. Sorry…can’t help myself! That’s cool about meeting your husband that way!

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