Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Red peppers and poison control

A couple months ago, I brought back some small dried peppers from vacation in exotic climes. My intention was to crumble them up and make red pepper flakes.

The other weekend, I decided I was going to make chai (I promise, this is related...). I also had cardamom pods from said vacation, and needed to crush them up, and get a little jar to put them in. While I was there, figured I'd get jars for crushed coriander, whole cloves, and the peppers once I crushed them. Went on to make the chai - I'll list the ingredients here, though I haven't found the proportions that I really like yet, so I'm not giving quantities...

Chai - cardamom, coriander, whole cloves, allspice, black tea, fresh ginger, black pepper, water, milk (boil spices in water first, then add milk).

Ok, so back to the peppers. I bought myself a handy dandy spice grinder (think mini metal bucket and pestle) and crushed the coriander and cardamom. Then figured, while I was at it, might's well do the pepper. Then I figured out that the pepper crushes really easily by hand.

No, I didn't put gloves on, or cover my hands in plastic bags.

Idiot. I know that's what you're thinking. Yes, you're right.

So I get done crushing them up and I'm pretty proud of myself for finally getting around to it. I have fresh crushed pepper that came halfway around the world and I'm totally psyched about it.

Then I touched my lip. Firefirefire! Oops...hmmm.

So I wash my hands a couple times. No dice. Then I start to obsess about how I'm going to take my contact lenses out.

Oh, you can feel it coming, can't you?

So, I'm obsessing about my contacts, thinking about how I know it's going to sting like hell, and that I have to teach step and weight lifting in the morning (which really sucks in glasses), and it's like having a loose tooth. I just have to get the contacts out RIGHT THAT MOMENT.

So I do, and yes it stings. I have to take out the left one with a kleenex because it stings so badly.

Try washing my hands a few more times, still no luck.

I call a friend of mine who's a doctor, figuring she might have an idea how to get the damn pepper oil off my fingers (apparently my brain cramps on the idea of google during a pepper oil attack). She suggests I call poison control, because they'll probably know. Finds the number for me.

So here I am, 10pm on a friday night, hands covered in pepper oil, calling Poison Control to ask them how to get a food product off my hands. It would have been amusing if my skin hadn't been on fire whenever it happened to brush it.

Poison control recommends immersing my hands in oil (or a mixture of vinegar and water) for a while, or coating them in vaseline. As I don't have that much vinegar, and don't have vaseline, oil seemed to be the ticket. So I ask them how long "a while" is. I'm thinking 10-15 minutes. He says he doesn't want to give me a number, because then I'll just call back afterwards if it didn't work. So I ask for a ballpark. 45 minutes.

45 freaking minutes!

So I pour all my remaining canola oil (olive and grapeseed oil are way too expensive, thank you very much) into a metal mixing bowl, plop myself down in front of a dvd (which thankfully had more than 45 minutes left), and immersed my hands. My wrists were resting painfully on the rim of the bowl, and I just don't do well just watching tv (I normally cook, or cross-stitch, or do puzzles, or something with my hands). But I made it through. Maybe 40 minutes.

Then I realize I have a problem. There I am, sitting with my hands in a bowl of oil, in my armchair, 10 feet from the kitchen sink. If I take my hands out of the oil to carry the bowl, the bowl will either slip, or the oil will drip all over the floor. So here's where my weight lifting comes in handy.

I get up and walk in a squat, with the bowl in my lap, squat walking all the way over to the sink, manage to lift the bowl up (somehow, don't ask me how) to the sink, and pour out the oil, without spilling one drop. I impressed even myself.

Tested my hands on my tongue, still slightly peppery, but definitely much much better than before. Why didn't I wait to take out my contacts? Why oh why?

Poison Control thought the hydrogen peroxide would clear the contacts of the nasty oils overnight. So I put them in in the morning. Uh, no. Practically couldn't get them out because my eyes were screwed shut so hard against the pepper needles pricking them.

Note to self: buy plastic bags or gloves for the next time I take it upon myself to crush up some red peppers.

Have any other ideas to cut down spicy oil?


JavaChick said...

Oh my.

Once, many years ago, I had similar experience. After handling peppers - bare handed - I blew my nose (constant sniffles, that's me). May not sound like a big deal, but trust me, it was painful.

No way I would have been brave enough to stick my fingers in my eyes to take out my contacts. Wondering now if I actually had my contacts in that day, because if I did, I have no idea how I got them out.

I have no advice, I'm afraid, other than to always make sure to protect your hands when handling hot peppers.

Good luck!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Of course, if I'd been thinking on my feet, I would've realized that I didn't actually HAVE to take out my contacts (which were only two days old, btw). Because they're approved for overnight wear and I could've just left them in.

Clare2e said...

Oh lawdy, I could visualize the squat-shuffle to the sink! I hate, Hate, HATE having stuff stinging my eyes!

I know drinking milk neutralizes pepper acids in the mouth and throat. I don't know if soaking your hands in milk might've assisted. The other thought I had- though you might not have had this around either- was that flexible liquid bandage stuff that you can paint on. If you painted it onto your dried fingertips and let it set, they might've been made impermeable against things leaking out as well as in. At least long enough to fish our your lenses.

I'm so sorry. What a debacle! But with all that time in oil, your cuticles must be gorgeous.

Leah J. Utas said...

You are not alone.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Clare, milk is a good idea, I didn't think to try that...but then again I hardly ever have milk in the house (must more likely to have oil), so that wouldn't have worked either. I'll have to buy some more canola oil, just in case something like this happens again.

My hands we nice and soft for a while :) But now they're back to their normal splitting selves!

Charlotte said...

It's not nice but I am laughing SO HARD right now. I have totally done that with habaneros. Except instead of taking out my contact, i just rubbed my eye with my finger. Thought I was going to die. Oh goodness. And the squat walk?!? Genius. I love you.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Thanks Charlotte! :) Actually, I don't mind if you're laughing...I'm laughing too! It wasn't necessarily funny at the time, but it's so funny now, looking back on it.

I've done the same thing with fresh hot peppers (no idea what kind, but those little funky orange ones), and I guess I just blocked out that memory....