Almost every cuisine uses onions, which means they reduce cooks to tears the whole world over. This perennial problem has given rise to a great deal of kitchen lore, designed to minimize your participation in the crying game when prepping onions. Some of these suggestions actually work, while others -- such as chewing gum while you cut -- have no effect.
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This Means War
Onions don't have the luxury of running away from potential predators, relying instead on chemical weaponry to keep themselves from being eaten. Their protective sulfur compounds -- which, ironically, give onions culinary value from the human perspective -- are highly volatile, turning into a fine mist when the onion is cut. When that mist reaches your eyes, it irritates their sensitive membranes and prompts a flood of tears to wash away the aggressive intruder. Chewing a wad of gum does nothing to alter that dynamic.
Practical and Pragmatic
The oft-repeated advice about cutting onions under cold running water has some merit, because the water absorbs those sulfur compounds and keeps them from your eyes. Unfortunately, wielding a knife with wet hands means you're pretty likely to cut yourself, which might also bring a tear or two to your eye. Refrigerating the onion makes its sulfur compounds less volatile, which helps. Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife limits cell damage to the onion -- another positive. The best tactic of all is to protect your eyes with goggles or a swim mask, which looks silly but works admirably.