The tiny brilliant kitchen tool that set me free

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My go-to contribution for potluck parties is a colorful kale-and-red-onion salad. Since folks are inclined to bring their highest-octane comfort dishes to potlucks, I discovered (through sheer last-minute laziness) that anyone who brings a clean green salad (to cut the richness of the rest) is an instant hero. Hosts hug you like you’ve arrived with the nectar of the gods, and guests’ eyes shimmer with tears of gratitude. Such an easy win.

The thing is, chopping red onions an hour before a social event creates a certain challenge — because onions don’t just wash off. They soak in and scent skin like the evil twin of a lavender bath. You can wash and wash, and still the scent lingers. I’ve tried everything, from my strongest hand soap to cleaners definitely not made for human skin (like my favorite kitchen abrasive, Bar Keeper’s Friend) and still find myself unintentionally wearing Eau de Onion.

That is, until I found this brilliant little treasure. Known by a number of names, the Rub-a-Way Bar is some sort of miracle. It’s a soap-shaped doodad made of lightweight stainless steel that magically and instantly removes the smell of onions (and garlic and shallots and scallions) from your skin. Just rub it in your hands as if it’s a bar of soap (with or without water), and all signs of aromatics are gone. I swear.

Amco 8402 Rub-a-Way Bar Stainless Steel Odor Absorber

Shop it: Amco 8402 Rub-a-Way Bar Stainless Steel Odor Absorber, $8,

The science behind this transfer of scent is beyond me, but for those who understand, apparently it has something to do with steel molecules binding with the (stinky) sulfur molecules on hands, thereby lifting them away. That sounds like something that should cost some cash, but this lifesaver is under 10 bucks.

The first time I used a Rub-a-Way bar, I thought I was imagining the effects. I called my teenagers into the kitchen to sniff (they did not budge, because when you say “Come in here and smell my hands” to teenagers, turns out they don’t even actually respond). I marched to the living room and forced the issue. And I heard the magic words. “What? I don’t smell anything.” Followed, of course by, “Move please, Mom, I can’t see the TV.”

I started my love affair with this product by purchasing this understated version from Amazon, which is selling out fast (buy extras — your friends will love them).

Norpro Odor Remover

Shop it: Norpro Odor Remover, $6.50,

If you’re a fan of KitchenAid and want to add a logo to your cooking space without shelling out for the mixer, there’s this branded version:

KitchenAid Stainless Steel Rub Away Bar

Shop it: KitchenAid Stainless Steel Rub Away Bar, $11,

Back to my savior kale salad: During the holidays, I make it sparkle with fresh pomegranate (dismantle a pomegranate in a bowl of water in the sink, a la Martha Stewart — super-easy and no “blood stains” on your apron). In fall I use dried cranberries, and at the peak of summer, cherry tomatoes. The secret sauce (quite literally) is a dressing made with good olive oil, fresh garlic and a sweet balsamic. Style it with some long arcing slivers of red onion on the very top, curving toward each other (gorgeous!). And then, of course, don’t forget to “rub away” that last onion infusion with your brilliant bar.

You’ll arrive at the party smelling like a rose.

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