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Spreenkle #2

A few helpful things to know about onions and our tears.

a) cold onions won’t make you nearly so teary. Try refrigerating onions 30 minutes before you need to cut them.

b) onions cut with santoku knives (it is said) are less likely to make you cry because of the knife’s extra-fine edge. What does that have to do with the price of butter? A finer blade is more apt to slice between the onion cells as opposed to through them — and through them is what causes them to burst and release the chemical that makes us weep.

c) I’ve tried this, and it’s possible that placebo effect would account for some of its success, but I’ve found it helpful.  Try slicing an onion directly next to the sink, with the cold water running. Why this seems to work could have something to do with the negative ions released from the cascading water – much like what takes places (on a far grander scale of course) in waterfalls – the negative ions present in the area around a waterfall result in the peaceful sort of happiness we experience when we are too.

If spreenkles are entirely new to you, you can see where they were introduced here. You’ll see them accumulating in the page with the same name in the header above. 

39 Comments Post a comment
  1. I definitely have experienced the cold water to be helpful. I had no idea about the refrigeration or knife. Coolio! Keep these Spreenkles comin’. Love ’em.

    January 24, 2012
    • Oh cool, Ashley! There’s one vote for wasting water! 😉

      January 24, 2012
  2. Interesting post. I’ll have to try refrigerating the onions before cutting them.

    But, as to the peacefulness we find near waterfalls; I wrote on my blog in the story “Rubber Tubing,” how frightened i am by water, and the sheer power of waterfalls make me feel panicky.

    But I love the wonderful taste of caramelized onions, so i’d better find a way to peel them without crying.

    January 24, 2012
    • I strongly suggest you stay away from waterfalls then and just stick with the faucet. So you don’t like the ocean either? Oh how sad!

      January 24, 2012
  3. super helpful, I always cry when cutting onions.

    one thing that also seems to help is placing a damp rag next to the cutting board.. somehow it seems to absorb some of the fumes

    January 24, 2012
    • I’ll try it! Thank you for that!

      January 24, 2012
  4. Please, please, please, don’t anybody cut onions with the water running: there is not enough potable water in the world to cover that kind of waste. I know — the water comes out of your faucet, but it comes from rivers, underground springs, dams. Several states are in drought right now, as well as countries in perpetual drought. If you must do something like this, get a recirculating fountain that uses non-potable water. I’m begging you all: please be conscious of resources. Thank you — Sharyn

    January 24, 2012
    • Ok then, folks, let’s amend this suggestion to chopping your onions beside a waterfall! A much better idea!

      January 24, 2012
    • But we could save the water in a bowl and then use it for cooking or watering – it doesn´t have to run down the drain…I´ve found doing it by the running tap helpful and we are very conscious of not wasting water here in dry old Andalucia, there´s a way to do it and not be wasteful!

      January 25, 2012
      • Three cheers for, Chica! 🙂 we’ll let the water run slowly into a bowl and we’ll water the olive tree with it when we’re done.

        January 25, 2012
      • How many onions are you chopping and how fast can you chop? You might need a barrel rather than a bowl. How do I know this? We keep a waste-water bowl in our sink and we stick bowls under any tap that drips even slightly. The bowls fill up awfully fast (several times a day) even with conscious conservation. In our house we save bathwater and haul it across the bathroom in a bucket to flush the toilet. And we bathe after one another at least sixty percent of the time (fill the bucket, run a little water out, run a little hot water in).

        January 25, 2012
  5. Or you could try slicing onions while standing in a cold shower, where you’d have the water flowing all around you, the mess would be right in the best place for cleanup, and perhaps the fact that you’re freezing from standing in a cold shower would also distract you from the fact that you’re crying, if it ends up happening despite all the prophylactic efforts.

    However, no matter what the price one ends up paying, a good pot of French onion soup is worth it after all. 🙂

    January 24, 2012
    • Thank you dear Kathryn, thank you ! ! 😉

      January 24, 2012
  6. All i have to do is open my kitchen door. There is perpetual waterfalling from the sky. I love these onion tips!

    January 24, 2012
    • You see the sort of genius that comes from Oregon? Genius!

      January 24, 2012
  7. Thanks for these tips! I’m always crying a river by the time I’m done chopping onions.

    January 24, 2012
  8. I love that scene in the movie Julie Julia where she is cutting up all those onions!

    January 24, 2012
  9. To avoid the whole crying thing… let someone with contact lenses chop the onions!

    January 24, 2012
  10. Thanks for the awesome tips, Spree, I can put away my onion goggles now:)

    January 24, 2012
  11. Spreesgratefulguineapig #

    Lest one get the mistaken impression that The dazzling Spree is gratuitous with water or any precious resource, I for one can vouche for the fact of her stewardship. In practice, once I have consumed the copious delectability of Spree’s creations and have sneaked around behind her closing the dozen or more drawers and cabinets she has lustily pillaged for spices, tools, electric mortar and pestal and such….. I start to gather the remains oh her tornadic creativity and start to wash her tools of the trade and encourage her to bask in satisfactions reflecting on the results of her heartfelt, soul-stirring crescendo of culinary craftwork. I start the faucet and turn my back to go gather more to wash and behind me she sneaks and scurries and turns off the faucet lovingly chastising me for wasting the agua fria. Momentary excesses and lapses common to portly rodents and lovingly but firmly corrected, all in defense of nature. No wonder I am the luckiest varmint in the whole wide world.

    January 24, 2012
    • Glad to hear it, grateful guineapig. I’m sure Spree meant no harm. It’s just that I live in drought-stricken California and have lived here most of my life and I am — ahem — sensitive to water use issues.

      January 24, 2012
    • Guinea Pig, Has anyone ever told you you’re the cutest varmint in the whole world? Please, let me!

      January 25, 2012
  12. A while ago I decided to try the “mouthful of water” method to keep the tears away – taking a sip of water and keeping it in your mouth while handling the onions. I didn’t really believe it would work, but now I swear on it. Once you stop thinking about how strange it is and might look, you get used to it. I’ve been tear-free ever since.

    January 24, 2012
    • So there’s nothing about having to stand on your head with this one? Are you sure? ;). Another funny funny remedy! I’m going to be listing everybody’s suggestions! Love them!

      January 25, 2012
  13. Thanks for the top tip on cold onions… I’ll try that tonight!

    Sticking your tongue out whilst chopping them does help too, although you end up with tongue ache if you have more than one to do (not to mention what a fool you look!)

    January 24, 2012
    • Ok, that’s hysterical! 😉

      January 25, 2012
  14. When I see your Spreenkle in my email inbox, I just have to smile. Although I’ve heard of the chilled onions and sharp knife tips, running cold water is new, one that I will be trying soon. I have to do something while I wait to see Spreenkle again. 🙂

    January 25, 2012
    • Oh, did I make you 🙂 John? You do that for me all the time!

      January 25, 2012
  15. Never can have too many onions nor ways to chop them tear-free…..:-)

    January 25, 2012
  16. I keep hearing this about cold onions, but you know a good cry is therapeutic.

    January 25, 2012
    • I always thought that in order to be therapeutic, a good cry had to come from the heart. you could be right…but I’d need to be convinced. 🙂

      January 25, 2012
  17. Colleen #

    How about investing about $20 on a pair of onion goggles? Sur La Table has them and probably many others too. They might even be cheaper at Amazon. I couldn’t chop onions without them.

    January 25, 2012
    • Oh….you mean it’s that easy? Well where’s the fun in THAT? We couldn’t have even HAD this discussion if we’d begun there. (You’ve enlightened me though Colleen and I do thank you! )

      January 25, 2012
  18. I use leeks, they don’t make you cry. Its so much easier and I don’t have to worry about the wasted mascara issue! Thanks for thinking of me for the unplugged thing, I’ll get on it!!

    January 26, 2012
    • I noticed how you used your leeks in your luscious white bean soup the other day! And there’ll be no crying over THAT soup!

      January 26, 2012
  19. Spree, I have tears in my eyes right now and I’m not near an onion. I laughed until I cried at Kathryn’s comment. Cold onions really seem to work for me. I can’t wait for comments on your next spreenkle.

    January 26, 2012
    • Thanks Karen!! 😉 Kathryn frequently reduces me to happy tears too.

      January 26, 2012
  20. Many, many years ago, I worked at a small mom and pop diner while in college and the owner told me those little tricks after watching me suffer through a large yellow onion one day. He also told me that if you start cutting the onion at the end opposite the root end, that the fumes are not as bad and your tears will be less. And guess what? It works for me too when I am somewhere that I can’t get that onion cold!

    January 27, 2012

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