Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Serrano Pepper Incident

Over the past few years, I have developed the urge to a plant a vegetable garden.  Kellie’s response to my repeated requests to start plowing was always short, direct, and negative.  I was adamant; I told her that I was going to plant a garden whether she liked it or not.  She informed me that if disturbed so much as a single blade of grass, then I would never sow another seed again.

Despite her threat to make me choose between celery and celibacy, she eventually relented and agreed to let me use six large pots for my garden. I wanted to place the pots in the sunniest spot in our backyard, right in the middle of the flagstone patio that Kellie designed and installed herself.  But she was not going to allow me to upset the Feng Shui of her sitting area.  
I offered a lengthy dissertation defending exactly why the pots had to be located precisely as I had indicated.  I explained how the direction of sun’s rising and setting relative to our home’s placement on the lot affected the path of shadows through our yard.  My reasoning was flawless, the logic impeccable, and the conclusion sound, leaving Kellie no angle for a counter argument.  She didn’t even attempt to press the issue any further.  Kellie just said, "No way."  I don’t know how she could have ignored my rationale.  Maybe she failed high school geometry or earth science.
The disagreement went on for days.  Finally, Kellie had had enough.  She told me exactly where I could put the pots.  I reflected for a moment.  I then explained that even if the pots would fit, there was hardly sufficient light in the location she suggested.  But, on the positive side, they would be well fertilized.  Eventually, I capitulated, as I often do, and planted my garden of serrano and jalapeño peppers, two varieties of tomato, eggplant, and green bell peppers, in the location of her choosing.
The eggplant and green bell peppers never ripened, but I had a good harvest of tomatoes and hot peppers.  The first dish I prepared from my crop was a serrano pepper and tomato omelet.  Serrano peppers are about three times hotter than jalapeños, but, oddly, they didn’t burn my fingers after handling them.  As I was about to learn, again, that didn’t mean that my hands were not covered with capsaicin, the chemical that gives hot peppers their heat.
Not long after breakfast, I had to relieve myself of the pot of coffee I shared with Kellie that morning.  I was painfully unaware of the fact that my hands were covered with a caustic skin irritant, so I was not particularly concerned about what I touched.  As I took aim, some of the residual capsaicin transferred to Mr. Winky.  Mr. Winky does not possess the same degree of thermal resistance to capsaicin as my fingertips.  
The burning didn’t start immediately, but I instantly knew that I had erred.  You might call it an oops moment.  There was precious little time to react.  Cutting off the flow midstream, a difficult maneuver at any time, is nearly impossible while the Mr. Winky is being flambéed.  In a panic, I dribbled my way over to the shower, stripped, jumped in, turned on the water, and immediately started screaming for Kellie’s assistance.
When she arrived, I was hunched over in the shower like a sumo wrestler, spray nozzle in hand, inundating the scorched area with water.  Kellie had little sympathy.
“Seriously, you were the captain of a nuclear powered submarine and you didn’t stop to think about what happens when you handle hot peppers?  Don't you remember the habanero pepper fiasco?" 
Grimacing with pain, I pleaded with her to just help me figure out what to do.  “Oh my god, just chill out,” Kellie said as she watched me frantically thrash about the shower. “Stop spraying water on it, that’s not going to help.  Try some shampoo or conditioner.” 
I slid down the wall and sat on the shower floor.  My legs were splayed out in front of me like a woman in stirrups about to give birth.  With water ricocheting everywhere, I frantically squirted shampoo and conditioner between my legs.
The immediate trauma quickly passed; the blisters persisted for a few days; now, only the emotional scaring remains.  Kellie has recommended that I ignore the urge to plant hot peppers.  She’s probably correct.  I’ll probably ignore her.