Friday, April 25, 2008
The one thing the Boyfriend asked that I do for my birthday party was to whip up a small vat of my ever-popular guacamole. I was enjoying myself in the kitchen, doing the little fancy-chef trick i can execute about 1 out of 4 times to remove the pits with the blade of your knife, and sliding the buttery green meat out of the skin with my fingers. There is nothing I love more than the calming, repetetive, utterly satisfying activity of chopping vegetables.
I once read a book about Zen Buddhism where a Zen Master assigns a newcomer to the temple the job of slicing carrots. The young monk in training is frustrated because he's there to seek enlightenment, but after a week he has barely seen the inside of the temple. After slicing his way through cases of carrots, the orange beginning to blur across his field of vision, the knife moving involuntarily in his hand, he pauses, hand in midair and realizes he is practicing Zen. I am this monk. Or at least this is how I feel in the midst of chopping the red onions for my birthday guacamole.
You can imagine then, how my Zen glow quickly began to fade as I noticed the tingling, nay, the BURNING in the fingertips of my left hand which had been holding the jalapeno I chopped. I ran my hand under cold water which alleviated the burning temporarily, but once dry, the pain had gotten worse and was spreading rapidly.
I stuff some ice into a dishcloth and wrap it around my hand. It feels a little better but under the numbing cold i can still feel the chile flames lapping underneath. This is where things get stupid. I pull a stick of butter out of the fridge thinking--maybe a base will neutralize the acid of the chile. Please note--I know NOTHING about chemistry and should never be trusted to make such judgements. It seems like wherever I spread the butter, the burning jumps to the next bit of skin until I am chasing it with the greasy wrapper, frantically hoping to douse the flames. At this point, the Boyfriend comes home to find me near tears from the unbelievable pain and frustrated beyond belief that the mildest of the pepper family could get the better of me. ME!
In the next hour, I go through the following attempts at treating my increasingly painful condition:
1) Dunking my hand in a glass of cold milk--sticking with the "base" idea (idiot), it feels like a relief while it's in the liquid but thats probably more about the cold than the chemistry. As soon as I remove it, my hand is worse than ever.
2) Boyfriend looks up solutions online and finds rubbing alcohol. We have none. We have hydrogen peroxide. I try this. Not the same thing. duh.
3) Nailpolish remover. That's kind of like rubbing alcohol, right? And it cuts through all kinds of stuff! Doesn't work.
4) Orange juice--more research online reveals that acids are the way to go. see "milk" for the effects.
6) Baking soda--One person online suggests caking it on the affected area like paper mache and sleeping this way. My birthday party starts in an hour.
7) OJ/vinegar--I am told the liquid will "draw out" the oils which i can then wipe off. The wiping serves to irritate my skin further.
8) Advil--good for cramps, not so much for flaming fingers.
9) VODKA--why didn't I think of this earlier?! Alternate one part down the hatch, two parts for hand-dunking. FINALLY the pain starts to subside. Fingers are red and swollen but no longer tear-inducing.
Perhaps the actual blood, sweat and tears that went into making the guacamole of death was the secret ingredient. Verdict from partygoers: best guac yet. Verdict from me: never again without my Hazmat Suit.
Hungry for More?
Natalie Goldberg, who wrote the book Long Quiet Highway, also wrote a book called Writing Down the Bones which is about the practice of writing, but is also a good non self-help, Zen-infused guide for life in general or any creative pursuit. Pick it up and be inspired, comforted, and enlightened.
"Recipe" for Near-Death Guacamole: (one bite and at least you'll die happy)
1) Cut three avocados in half. Remove pits and save one for later. With a spoon or your fingers, scoop each half out of its skin. Better not to cut up but remove entire half. (this is a good way to tell if it's ripe and also makes for better texture later.)
2) Finely chop one small red onion. add to avocados.
3) Mince up one or two cloves of garlic if you feel like it, but it's not necessary as far as i'm concerned.
4) Finely chop half a jalapeno, discarding the seeds and spines. of course, this is really up to you depending on how hot you want it. Throw the whole thing in. Or 4, for all I care. Just, for the love of all things holy, WEAR GLOVES.
5) Using the back of a fork, mash up the avocados with the onion, etc. i like mine a little rustic--aka, kind of lumpy.
6) Squeeze in juice of a lime, or more to taste, add in kosher salt and black pepper also to taste.
7) Chop up a tomato if you like, and throw that in. I like the looks of it myself.
8) Chop up a load of cilantro and mix that in too.
9) If at this point you need a little more flavor (and you will), the answer is usually more lime juice and salt. And maybe a PINCH of sugar. (If you need a little somethin else, a little je ne sais quoi, a little sumpin-sumpin, green tabasco sauce is the way to go. It's heavenly. Try a couple of drops on a plain tortilla chip. poor man's salsa. delicious.)
10) Plop pit in center to keep guac green. Serve with chips. Or just a spoon. :)