Are you ever chopping onions and thinking: This REALLY HURTS! And feel like a weenie?
Well, fret no more.
You are tough. You have sulfuric acid in your eyes!
Woah! No wonder I've donned ski goggles and sunglasses to fend of the painful squirts. Did something wrong today while making Julia Childs' Soupe a L'Oignon (soo simple and easy and yummy) and WOW did my eyes hurt.
Then I remembered that newly acquired factoid, and top that off with the fact that during chemistry I learned that sulfuric acid (H2S04) is, among acids, CRAZY STRONG. I remember we were VERY CAREFUL with that substance.
I thought: More cooks need to know this.
Here's the official word from "About.com: Chemistry":
...When you cut an onion, you break cells, releasing their contents. Amino acid sulfoxides form sulfenic acids. Enzymes that were kept separate now are free to mix with the sulfenic acids to produce propanethiol S-oxide, a volatile sulfur compound that wafts upward toward your eyes. This gas reacts with the water in your tears to form sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid burns, stimulating your eyes to release more tears to wash the irritant away.
Cooking the onion inactivates the enzyme, so while the smell of cooked onions may be strong, it doesn't burn your eyes.
Is that NUTS, or what?!?
So, never let it be said that cooking is for the faint of heart.
I remember the scene from Julie and Julia where Julia is chopping a mountain of onions and her husband walks in, says a few startled words, and rapidly retreats, ducking the propanethiol S-oxide bomb that was their kitchen.
Julia stayed, chopping and crying.
What a goddess.
(photo courtesy of blogs.browardpalmbeach.com)
P.S. I looked at that picture and first thought: "WHAT in the WORLD?" Then I thought "Is that spectacular creature a monkfish?" Have no idea where that guess came from--SO not a fish person. So, looking up monkfish, I find:
Courtesy of the Maryland State Department of Natural Resources, particularly Mike Luisi (thanks Mike)! I'm thinkin' it's the same creature. WOW, whattaface. In permanent "ROWR!" position.
I do remember Julia saying (in the film) that part of why the men at the French cooking school loved her was because she was fearless. Handling this creature certainly supports her claim.