10/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Fighting Back (Onion) Tears

This week over at's Project Recipe, we made Stacked Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde and Cheese.


THE RECIPE: Stacked Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde and Cheese

I took a semi-homemade approach and used store-bought chicken and salsa verde for the recipe, so I thought it only fair that I pickle the red onions myself.

It looked easy enough: pickling red onions makes them absolutely wonderful for sandwiches and salads, and basically involves nothing more than sticking them in vinegar for a few hours. But first, they have to be sliced.

I hate chopping, slicing, or even looking at onions. I'm a highly sensitive person. I mean that emotionally (you have probably already insulted me), socially (I can anticipate people's needs, I pick up on all the slightest cues), and physically (delicate constitution, heat rashes).

I sound like a lot of fun, don't I? So it comes as no surprise to me that my eyes are very sensitive to onions. I don't even have to be the one doing the chopping to have a good cry. Once, while preparing a summer succotash, I was wiping my eyes so often on my upper arms that I had huge mascara smears on my biceps. As an onion-sensitive individual I have tried several tricks:


1. Not chopping them. This works fairly well. However, nearly every savory recipe I've ever been interested in starts with a great onion chop fest, so...I've tried other approaches.

2. Goggles. This works. I think. I sometimes think techniques just serve to befuddle you so soundly that your brain forgets to react to the chemicals stinging your eyes. But these do protect your eyes. And luckily, I am a pack rat so I have my Barracudas from middle school swim team. There are even goggles made specifically for chopping onions, but come on. As much as I love kitchen equipment I can't imagine investing in goggles specifically for onions. That's letting the vegetable win.

3. Matches in your teeth. I have no idea why I tried this. But I did, several times. I think the idea is the sulfur on the matches traps or does something to the gas emitted by the onions. I did not have success with this method.

4. Refrigerating or freezing your onions. Don't worry, I only put them in the freezer for 15 minutes. This helps for sure but does not eliminate the problem.

5. Running water. Much like the great "seed a pomegranate under water" trick--but less effective. If you are just peeling an onion this is fine but I do not recommend slicing an entire onion under running water. It's tricky. If you're me.

6. Opening windows and putting a fan on. Sure, why not? It helps a little.

7. Using the proper technique and a sharp knife. has a good, quick onion chopping video that made the whole process easier. And sure, I try to always use a sharp knife (here's ba's video on knife sharpening).

8. Having a good cry. It makes them sting less for sure. And, truly, I seem to have little choice. I know they didn't mean to hurt me, I'm just really sensitive. Sniffle, sniffle.

Please, Let me know if you have any good tricks.