Tracy Lee Curtis

Cutting the crying out of slicing onions

jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Driving my son to school, I remember this hysterical exchange we had when he was six. Quoting from a book called, “Weird But True,” he read:

“Chewing gum while cutting onions keeps you from crying.”

And I said, “Oh, I never knew that. Chewing gum keeps you from crying.”

And he looked me and said, “and cutting onions.”

It just cracked me up. He was too young to understand that cutting onions makes you cry, so the idea that chewing gum helps with that made no sense. To him, the quote meant that if he ever felt like crying, he should just pop some Dubble Bubble and chop an onion – take his mind off things.

But the takeaway for me was the chewing gum tip. I’m making tuna salad today, so I think I’ll add gum chewing to some of the other onion cutting remedies.

Like they say to use a very sharp knife, because cutting an onion damages its cells and causes it to release irritating compounds. So using a sharp knife damages fewer cells. You can also cut the onion under cold, running water.

I’ve heard putting a piece of bread in your mouth absorbs the sulfuric compounds before they can reach your eyes. And putting a match in your mouth also works. And toasts the bread. Just kidding. But holding an unlit match between your teeth allows the red end of the match to absorb sulfuric compounds before they reach your eyes.

You can try to cut the onion next to the open flame of a gas burner, the heat draws the sulfur to it, away from your face. Or put your cutting board on the stove and turn on the overhead vent.

You can always blindfold yourself. But I won’t do that if I’m doing the very sharp knife thing – while chewing gum. That’s like trying to pat your head and rub your belly – while operating a chainsaw.

I would think if you do all of these things, no way that little onion will get to you. Even if it does, they say just stick your head in the freezer and the cold temp will ease the burning sensation.

But then your husband walks in – only to find the water running, the gas burning, the vent blasting, and a sharp knife laying out on the counter. And you with your head in the freezer – with a mouthful of gum, bread and matches.

And judging from your absentmindedness of running all the appliances, your insatiable hunger, and the hot flash that drove you into the icebox, he concludes you’ve hit menopause. When really, you just want a little onion for the tuna fish.

I think I’ll just stick with the gum.

Curtis: tracy@tracyleecurtis.com; @TracyLeeCurtis1

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