Colombian Onion Tricks

Does chopping onions make you cry sometimes? Me too. Well, it used to. It’s been nearly a year since my husband taught me this crazy onion trick that he learned in Colombia, so I figure it’s time to pass it on to you. So here you go: stick a spoon in your mouth while you’re chopping.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Looks ridiculous, doesn’t it?


But you know what you don’t see? Me crying all over the place while I cut this onion. It’s absurd. I don’t know how it works, but it does. So I challenge you to try it — even if it’s when no one’s watching.

How did my husband learn about this onion craziness? Last December, I was squishing cockroaches, doing yoga, and being served 3 excellent vegetarian meals per day in Mexico while my husband was fending for himself in Medellin, Colombia. By “fending for himself,” I mean, he was cooking and eating every meal every day for himself, by himself. And it’s not that he can’t do such a thing, it’s just that it’s not very much for anyone.

Luckily, he made friend and was invited over for Christmas dinner. As it turns out, his friend’s housemates were in college. Now, my husband and I are both a decade+ beyond our college years, so he had forgotten what a college Christmas dinner/party would look like in the US, let alone imagining one today in Colombia. As it turns out, it’s still pretty much the same:  no plan, random meat things on a grill that wouldn’t light, and people using the lids of pots and pans as plates. Ah, college. Cooking at that party had a lot more in common with the way we make do on a backcountry camping trip than how we go about preparing a holiday meal now. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ingenuity required in backcountry camping (and travel in general, which is why I make things like this). And it’s this ingenuity that lead him to learning his second onion trick.

Trick 2: No Cutting Board Needed
Before it was time to serve the food, onions needed to be chopped for pico salsa and guacamole. Though there was a knife, there was no cutting board or plate or cutting surface available for such a task. So a party goer showed him how to score an onion and shave off the squares directly into the bowl of salsa, without the assistance of a cutting board. This is how he showed me and how he still chooses to dice onions today:

Cut an onion in half, then score it vertically, cutting in only about 1/2 inch deep

Cut an onion in half, then score it vertically, cutting in only about 1/2 inch deep

Rotate 90 degrees and score again

Rotate 90 degrees and score again

Carefully slice off the top layer into a bowl or onto your food

Carefully slice off the top layer into a bowl or onto your food

Voila! You've got a tiny dice.

Voila! You’ve got a tiny dice.

As he was doing this, his eyes and nose were watering like crazy, which is when he was shown the spoon trick. He looked ridiculous doing it too.

And there you have it. Two awesome, random onion tricks. To all of you fellow onion criers out there, what tricks do you have?

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