I once had a bout with the building trades. My thumb is permanently flattened from hitting it several times enthusiastically with a 24 ounce steel framing hammer. I soon realized I couldn’t endure the learning curve of another trade. It took me over ten years to stop cutting the tip of my index finger with my trusty chef knife. But I’m getting away from the point, there is a parable here. I learned from builders that what defines civilization is the straight line. This too is what defines civilized food preparation. You grasp vegetables or meats, pieces of uncivilized nature and with a blade of some sort convert it into organized pieces of material that cook uniformly and are appetizing to look at and consume.
The beautiful thing about cutting onions is that because of the concentric separations inside they are already cut in one direction. To finish the job nature started follow these instructions; Cut a small portion off the top and bottom of a fresh, crisp onion and score a thin line through the skin. Peel the skin off the onion. Holding the onion on the cutting board top-side up cut it in half down the middle. Lay the two pieces on the cutting board flat side down. Slice through the length of one of the halves several times. The trick here is to leave a little bit at the end uncut so that you can then rotate the sliced onion hemisphere 90 degrees on the cutting board without it falling apart. Proceed to turn it on the board 90 degrees and slice the onion half again several times perpendicular to your last cuts. The onion will fall away into little squares until you get to the stub at the end, whack this last bit a few times and instead of randomly chopping an onion into a rough pile you have used the original design of the onion and three or four simple maneuvers to make a neat pile of uniformly diced pieces.
Repeat the process to the other half and you’ve got a whole diced onion. If you need more than one onion like we often do, say you’ve got to prepare two hundred of them, proceed in Henry Ford style. Separate the job into stages. Cut the ends and score all your onions first, then peel them, then cut them all in half and finally dice all the halves. I like the “Henry Ford” style because I’m essentially lazy and find that the most efficient way of doing something suits me most of the time.