Monday, January 10, 2005

A Public Service Announcement

While perusing my favorite internet site,, I came across a conversation thread that struck rather close to home. The thread was labeled “Cooking for yourself 101” and dealt with a culinary mishap that, in addition to occurring to the author of the thread, had also happened to myself last summer. It is a legitimate kitchen hazard that just does not get the amount of press that it truly deserves. Perhaps if the fear-mongering segment of the national media would get off of the “secondhand smoke” bandwagon and look just a little closer at the dangers found within one’s vegetable crisper, the general public (myself in particular) would be able to happily go about their lives with just a little less occasional excruciation in unmentionable areas. The household hazard I am referring to is the oil excreted by the average jalapeno pepper during preparation.

When I am not working, parenting, writing, drawing, fishing or delivering corporal punishment to my flippant liver, I can generally be found trying to increase my proficiency in the art of backyard grilling. I have become rather good at it and one of my specialties is a Firehouse Jalapeno Mustard Sauce that tastes great when applied in liberal amounts to slowly grilled chicken. As the title implies, one of the main ingredients is the jalapeno pepper, finely diced and applied to the sauce while boiling. After preparing this rather volatile ingredient I found myself having to answer a call nature, which I did without paying any consideration to the idea of washing my hands before making my way to the bathroom as opposed to my normal routine of washing them afterwards. After doing what I had to do, I returned to the kitchen and began working on the onions while continuing the conversation I was having with my wife before I had excused myself.

Before long, I started experiencing a wild tingling sensation from beneath my jeans and I began formulating a plan to immerse my kids into some kind of activity that would keep them engrossed for fifteen minutes worth of “alone time” with my wife. Before I could come up with anything however, the sensation began turning rather uncomfortable. Enough so in fact, for me to start modifying my posture to try and compensate for the pain. By the time my wife got around to asking if I was okay, I was doubled over, standing on one leg and gripping onto the kitchen countertop so tightly that I was practically engraving my fingerprints into the Formica. Pathetically whimpering that I thought I needed to take a quick shower, I excused myself and awkwardly limped to my basement bathroom.

Retreating to the shower seemed like a natural way to rectify the situation. With the wisdom that can only be gleaned in hindsight however, I can now confidently say that this strategy was by far the worst thing that I could possibly have done. In addition to having no soothing value whatsoever, the only thing the application of water accomplished was to spread the pain to other areas, with decidedly gender-bending physical effects, while amplifying its excruciation factor exponentially. Inside of thirty seconds I was brought to my knees, hysterically screaming at my wife to bring me a glass of milk in an octave akin to that of Minnie Mouse indulging an urgent helium habit. I was also mentally penning a suggestion that I thought could be of use to the military officers in charge of interrogation at Abu Ghraib (I know that I was ready to talk at that point).

Like some sort of Borden bucket brigade, my wife finally arrived with a generous helping of 2% served in a glass that I instantaneously vowed never to drink from again. Without hesitation or ceremony, I plunged my afflicted appendages into the container while letting out an audible groan, not because of any immediate soothing effect that the dairy product had, but because of the shock of plunging a part of my anatomy that is generally kept warm and protected into a liquid chilled to a temperature that would have placed a polar bear in danger of debilitating frostbite. It was at about that time that my two-year-old son decided to show up to see what all the commotion was about, adding humiliation to the growing list of ailments I was then suffering from. “Wha you do-in Dah’dee?” he innocently asked.

In the heat of the moment, when you are on your knees in a shower stall wearing nothing but a crystal athletic supporter filled with a frigid breakfast beverage, it is hard to formulate an answer that you will be comfortable with having your two-year-old scion repeating in day care. “Daddy’s dipping his…uh….cookies.” was the only thing I could come up with on the fly while shooing him out of my bathroom.

It took a while, but the pain did eventually subside. The memory of it is still rather vivid however and just reading that thread on Zug was more than enough to instantly reduce my locker room bragging rights. Jalapeno oil is, at least in my experience, the second most painful thing that can possibly be applied to a human being’s groin area, running a close second behind exposure to pepper spray, which is something I know as a result of unleashing a spontaneous act of random nudity in close proximity to an ongoing student riot in Korea. While I am preaching to my readership about the pitfalls of careless vegetable handling, it probably bears mentioning that mooning oriental authority figures armed with chemical crowd control devices isn’t such a great idea either.


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5:19 PM  

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