Top | Cynthia's High Five

How to cut an onion

(article, Cynthia Lair)

p(blue). Culinate editor's note: In 2012, Cynthia Lair presented a TEDx talk titled '"How Watch the video below, and you'll realize that her talk is about much more than merely chopping an onion; it's about cooking with intention. 

p(blue). Before you watch the talk, Cynthia asks you to consider your onion in these five steps.

h4. 1. Say hello.

Begin by noticing how this particular onion is the same or different from other onions. Is the papery skin thicker? Thinner? Is the stem end starting to sprout? Does the onion’s surface have blemishes or seem picture-perfect? Bigger, smaller — what is unique about this onion? Answering these questions brings you into the present moment.

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h4. 2. Where’s your thumb?

Are you choking up on the handle of your knife, so that your thumb and first finger are grasping the root end of the blade instead of the handle? If not, reposition your hands so you have the most stable hold on your knife.

h4. 3. Stay sharp.

When you make the first cut, from north pole to south pole, from stem to root, you will quickly gauge how sharp your knife is today. Did the cut go smoothly? Was it a bit of a struggle? If your knife is sharp, good for you. If it could use the rod or the stone, file that thought away for later.

h4. 4. Check in with your thoughts.

As you remove the papery skin and begin making the first horizontal cuts into the onion half, check in with your thoughts: Have you drifted into last night’s conversation or tomorrow’s problems? Can you let that onion and its unraveling bring you back into the present moment? Stay with the present task and let replays of the past and schemes for the future go.

h4. 5. What happens next?

After you have a cutting board mounded with onion bits, but before you scurry off to the next task, take note of what just happened. What was once whole is now in dozens of pieces. The onion is ready for service. And if you’ve paid attention, really been there for it, the onion has already served you.


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