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Why My (White) Ancestors Feared Chiles

Posted by on October 4, 2010

Being a mix of Irish and Italian, chili peppers are something of a new experience for me. I’ve eaten my share of Mexican food and, as the bride of an Indian, I have a growing spice tolerance. However, my spice tolerance is limited to spice consumption. Not using spices as an exfoliant.

Confused? I was too. It was saturday night and I decided to make daal, a simple dish including lentils and a few spices. While it was cooking I tasted it and was shocked at how bland it was. So, I took two chiles out of the fridge and chopped them up. I’m not a total newbie when it comes to chiles, I had them in my fridge and I’ve casually added them to a recipe before.

But this time I had a cold. I wiped my nose with my hand and sat down to read while the daal simmered. My nose itched so I scratched it. I kept reading. My hand again went to touch my now somewhat irritated nose. Was it the good book that kept me from cluing in or the boredom with my nose caused by my cold? Either way, it wasn’t until I had touched nearly half of my face in an ever-expanding circle around my nose that I realized it felt like I had rubbed my face with chili oil. Because I had.

The pain intensified by the minute until my nose and eyes were watering. My ever-resourceful husband googled the problem and prescribed me the following for removing the burning sensation caused my chili oil:

1. Wash face with salt.
2. Rinse with milk.
3. Wash face and hands with soap.
4. If this doesn’t work, soak the affected area in alcohol.

Amelia: Milk? You want me to wash my face with milk?
Varun: Yes, here hold still. I’ve lots of experience washing with milk*.

Amelia: Hmm, how am I going to soak the “affected area” in alcohol?
Varun: Well, It says to soak it.
Amelia: Yes, well those directions are for one’s hand.
Varun: Hmm, lay down and I’ll soak a paper towel in the red wine. Do you think wine works? We don’t have whiskey.

Amazingly, it worked. Without the wine soaking. And the daal turned out to be delicious and “just above” Varun’s spice tolerance (luckily we had yogurt to dull the spice). All in all, it was an enlightening evening and another humbling and hilarious moment.

*Varun’s milk bathing will be an upcoming post.

3 Responses to Why My (White) Ancestors Feared Chiles

  1. peggy

    So how do you wash your face with salt? I don’t get it. And here’s another question for you, do these instructions apply to eyeballs? I was chopping up some jalapeno peppers one day, washed my hands, and then went to go take out my contacts (b/c my eyes were drying out). I obviously didn’t wash my hands thoroughly because my eyes started stinging right away. I tried washing my eyes out with water but it still hurt like crazy– wondering if I needed to use milk in my eyes? 🙂

    • Amelia

      Oh, simply wet your hands and pour about a tsp of salt onto them. Rub. It’s quite the exfoliant.

      I wouldn’t rub my eyeballs with salt. But splashing milk it could work? I’m not sure. My take-home lesson from this was always use rubber gloves when chopping chilies. It’s easier than keeping track of what I’ve touched! Hope your eyes are okay!!

  2. Vasudha Rana

    you should actually try washing your face with milk. its wonderful. Infact yogurt (plain ofcource) is even better!
    haha!! must be weird for you! it’ll be smelly and messy.. but works wonders. trust me! 🙂

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