You know when a recipe is like:
"You'll need one butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, halved crosswise, then cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide wedges."
And you're like:
Here's a helpful guide.
Usually lengthwise means to cut along the "length" of the item.
This makes sense for things like bacon.
But sometimes the thing a recipe tells you to cut "lengthwise" is .... circular.
For example, an onion.
Cutting an onion lengthwise — or any fruit or vegetables — means you should slice it from the root end to the bud end. From one pole to the other. If you're asked to quarter a vegetable lengthwise, slice it from pole to pole, then cut each half in half again the same way.
When you need to cut something crosswise, think circumference.
Why does all this matter? Let's say you're trying to make onion rings. You want to cut crosswise. But let's say you want to grill an onion and you want all the layers to stay intact as a little onion wedge. In that case you want a lengthwise cut, so the root holds all the layers together.
Cooking questions? Email BuzzFeed Food editor Emily Fleischaker