Okay, I know these aren’t Jalapeño peppers. They’re Thai peppers, which are worse. And this story is about Thai food and Thai peppers and pain.
For a few months I lived in a co-housing community in the eastern part of Davis, CA. This consisted of seven households with a common back yard and one house which had been designated the “common house”, which we all basically shared. There were gardens, chickens, hippies, rabbits, graduate students, and all kinds of things like that. It was a fun experience, one that I recommend to everyone.
One of the traditions of this co-housing community was that each month, one of the households would prepare a large community dinner for the entire community, to be served either outside or in the common house. When it came to be our turn, my friend E and I decided to make Thai food, since we were both fans. We bought all the fixings we could at the regular grocery store, except for two ingredients which we couldn’t find there: coconut ice cream (we eventually settled for regular vanilla ice cream mixed together thoroughly with coconut milk), and Thai chili peppers.
Fortunately, next to the grocery store there was an Asian food market. So I went in there and hunted around. I found some small red peppers, dried, and the label read “dried Thai peppers”, so I examined them.
Here’s where my inexperience with food in general comes in.
“Hm,” I thought. “They’re small. They’re dry. How hot can they be? They’re probably quite mild.” And since we had in the community a few people from the midwest whose palates, I knew, weren’t up to very spicy food, I picked up some of these small, dry peppers.
Then I took them home. Then I started cutting them to make the red curry.
The fact that my hands started burning right away should have been a clue that I’d made a terrible, terrible mistake, but I was young and dumb, and went on my merry way without even thinking to put on gloves or that maybe this red curry might be too hot after all. No, I’d bought the eight peppers, and by God I was going to use them all.
Then I got an itch on my cheek, just under my left eye. Without even thinking about it, I reached up to scratch it…
I yelped, of course, and ran to the bathroom to wash my face of the burning pepper juice, but, of course, all that did was spread the oil around and make my entire face burn. But, after several minutes of washing my face desperately with soap and water, it finally got to a bearable point.
Then I thought, “Hey, I’m already in the bathroom, I should probably pee while I’m here.”
Do I need to go further?
There are some lessons you just have to learn the hard way…
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