Then I reached Barry G. Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University, who seemed to talk sense. Goggles are fine, he said, but "injuring as few of the onion's cells as possible" is really the way to go. He recommended using a freshly sharpened knife, capable of penetrating the bulb quickly and cleanly. And while a stopover in the freezer or in ice water might slow the progress of tear-inducing compounds, "freezing will result in a less crisp onion, and soaking removes flavor". Better to rely on an open window, running water, or a flame to draw away and purge some of the onion's irksome fumes. "I burn a few candles," he said. I have since taken to doing the same, completing my fail-safe mise-en-place: a sharp knife and an enchanting ambience.