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Glass Onion: The Native Traditions of the Wild Onion Dinner

For many Indigenous people—myself included—the true marker of spring is not the tale of rutting groundhogs, but instead, the unveiling of the Wild Onion dinner and all its trappings.

A dinner primarily consisting of wild onions that are mixed with scrambled eggs, this Native tradition is still practiced by the Oklahoman tribes and one of the few meals that haven’t been co-opted by the white man. Sorry!

Although I have been to these dinners off and on for about twenty years, this is the first time I have written about them. I've been holding off for fear of appropriation, but since there's a decent chance I may die in the next couple of years due to another stroke, I decided to bring the entire world a spoonful of this Native custom.

By the time arrived at the Norman First American UMC, 1950 Beaumont Dr., the line was already around the corner and the smell of effervescent onions was in the spring air.

As church volunteers were hawking the various raffle items like the omnipresent Pendleton blanket, the line moved quickly and efficiently.

As I came through the inside door, $12 bucks waiting in my hand, my mind and belly were ready for the dinner to begin.

The warming trays and crock-pots were simmering as volunteers uses serving spoons and various tongs to scoop out various pieces of Indigenous cuisine, from the name-checked wild onions to world-class frybread.

After maneuvering from the beginning of the serving line to the very end, I exited the building, cup of powdered lemonade at my side, and out into the shining sun, pitching camp at an available table. I then gazed at my wonderous meal.

This being the Wild Onion Dinner and all, I have to say, it was all about the wild onions.

With the cooked eggs strewn about with stringy onions, the taste created a strange dichotomy, but a necessary one. After a few bites, you believe that this is the way eggs should be done, and marvel at your brilliant life decision to try them.

In addition to the name-sake dish, there was so much to unpack with this dinner, starting with the Salt Pork.

Besieged with the thickness of the extreme bacon, it truly has a simple taste of pork-near steak. That flavor then sneaks into the similar-enriched pinto beans which contain slabs of extra pork, as well as the banaha bread, which is like a nude tamale. It all is amazing.

As usual, the frybread is always a treat for the Native man and the high-minded carb-soldier, but can we talk about the grape dumplings for a moment?

Like a spirited dessert, the grape dumplings are boiled pieces of dough simmered in grape juice, creating a high-minded juicy soup that is both delicious and nutritious. Better than most desserts, it is a rare treat that's almost as good as the main course. I wanted a second helping!

Usually, I take a few bites of my meal, taking the rest home for later when I write about it.

But this time, I devoured the whole thing, savoring and championing every bite as the sunlight rained over me; acknowledging the history of this food, and the reason so many Natives will always have a delicious tale that few people will never know.


Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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