Weapon of Mass Destruction

I’ve found one. It’s real, intense, and can and will do great harm to all living organisms across the globe, the planets and their moons, and the entire solar system. If one uses enough, our central sun Alcyone will go dark and the greater part of the universe will be rendered incapable of sustaining life. I understand now, why people tremble at it’s very mention. After having experienced one first hand, I too, am very afraid.

Bird’s eye green chilies.

In my never-ending quest to see how much food I can ruin, today’s disaster was the liberal use of green chili paste I made with the Bird’s Eye chilies I got from a local Indian market. These reside in the produce section and I didn’t give them any special consideration until I had to evacuate my home late last night, during a severe cold front (in the high 50’s) ravaging the state of Florida, in flip flops, in my bathrobe.

These are rather inconspicuous looking, being fairly small and faint of smell. Based on the Indian food I’ve had before I knew these chilies would cook up a bit on the spicy side, but nothing in heaven or on Earth could have prepared me for the experience of using too much fresh green chili paste.


I made the green chili paste using the directions I got my friend Suneeta. I took a bunch of green chilies and a bit of salt, jammed them in a mason jar and used my immersion blender (since I haven’t gotten a new food processor yet) to blend them to a paste. Simple. Easy. No problems here. I left them in the jar  until I was ready to use them and began the rest of the prep work for the meal. Even after having ground these to a paste, I detected nothing that caused me alarm or concern. No intense odors, no heat waves – nothing.

Next, I chopped some ginger and onions so that I could saute these with the green chili paste for my first attempt at making black-eyed pea fritters (alasanda vada), and this too went well. In fact, everything was just fine until I put a few heaping teaspoons of green chili paste into the very hot frying pan along with the peanut oil, onions and ginger.

And that’s when everything started to go terribly wrong.

The first thing that happened was that my eyes, nose and throat began to burn. Even when I backed away from the frying pan, the effect of the green chilies was unabated. After a few seconds of me trying to stir whilst simultaneously leaning as far back as I could from the stove, I found it difficult to breathe normally. Or at all. But being the consummate adventurer that I am, I thought that maybe things would get better as soon as the chilies cooked up a bit with the onions and ginger, and the agony that I was enduring would soon end if only I could muster the fortitude to weather the discomfort of chemical burns.

After about a minute or more, I could no longer stand there and stir. I dropped the spatula and exited the kitchen rather quickly. I thought, maybe turning on the ceiling fans might help the situation. They’d circulate the air thus disband the effect of the chilies, and keep me out of the kitchen long enough for me to get some tissues and wipe the tears from my eyes. I’d go back into the aired out kitchen refreshed, ready to resume making this fine, delectable meal.

Upon re-entering the kitchen I was overcome with a series of heart stopping, body racking sneezes. I didn’t even make it to the stove before I was overcome with the most forceful sneezes I’ve ever had. When the sneezing stopped, my nose started running uncontrollably. Once again I found myself exiting the kitchen post haste, fast tracking it to the other side of the living room where the Kleenex tissues were. Fortunately I’m in fairly good shape and I made it to the Kleenex box before a torrent of liquid poured forth from my nostrils.

It was a good thing for me the box of Kleenex was full. I stood under the ceiling fans running on high, blew my nose for a long while, trying to see through a haze of tears, wondering if the smoke alarms were going to get tripped. Hopefully the fire alarms were only sensitive to smoke and not chemicals.  Since nothing seemed to be getting better, after a short time I opened the front door, took a deep breath and filled my lungs with fresh, cold air, and walked back into the kitchen to remove the pan from the stove and turn everything off.

Even with the door open and the fans on, it took a good ten minutes or more for the house to get aired out to the point where my eyes weren’t tearing up and the sneezing stopped. It goes without saying that there was no way that I would be able to salvage this dish. I’m glad I only had a few ingredients in the pan because I really don’t like wasting food.

Fifteen minutes later give or take – dejected and humiliated, I went back into the kitchen and walked cautiously towards the stove. With a sense of wonder and curiosity, I wanted to see just how hot the green chilies cooked up.  It was the same kind of curiosity I had years ago when I wanted to see just how bad a shock an electric fences really gave. I took my spoon, put a minuscule amount of the vegetables on the end of it – like in the grits scene in “My Cousin Vinny”, and tasted it.

It never ceases to amaze me how I can make such spectacularly bad decisions.

Once again, I couldn’t breathe. My tongue burned hotter than molten steel. I started snotting and coughing uncontrollably. The sneezing resumed and my eyes teared up instantly. As I’m trying to regain my composure all I could think about was, at least I didn’t rub my eyes, though at the time that wasn’t all too comforting. Had I made any more mistakes I may have had to write this using braille from the burn unit at Shands.

When all was said and done, I threw away the half an onion, a teaspoon of ginger, and the chili paste that went into the dish. I used about a third of a box of Kleenex, my culinary self-esteem has taken another nose dive, and I still have a small jar of the most toxic substance known to human kind. And I’m hungry. It’s now about an hour later and my sinuses are still not back to normal.

But that’s ok. Next time, I’ll just pick a dish to make with less harmful ingredients. Or, maybe I’ll just get take out.


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