SIMON WALKER: Beware evil red devils

WAS thinking about the wisdom of cooking with chillies the other day.

Shortly after I changed my contact lens.

And the thought occurred as my retinas melted, “I really should have washed my hands more thoroughly.”

Experiences with chilli are often memorable like that.

Who among us, for example, hasn’t made up a thermo-nuclear vindaloo using those evil red bullets from Aunty Shirley’s famed “burning bush”.

The one you took a cutting from all those years ago.

That has managed over the seasons to prosper where most other life forms in the vege patch have struggled.

That emits a low hum as it grows.

And causes buttocks to clench.

We’ve all taken a cutting from a pyrotechnic shrub like that.

And yes, we could have exported the excess fruit that proliferated to, say, North Korea, or the Middle East, where they could have been used to bring Armageddon, but instead we chose to build up an arsenal of death in the freezer.

Because we don’t like to waste stuff.

And yes, the thought occurred when we had guests over for curry the other week, “Wouldn’t it be a Masterchef moment to use some of Aunty Shirley’s Scorpion Death in the meal”.

So away we’ve gone, chopping, slicing and dicing our fingers through garlic and ginger and organic semtex.

Creating something akin to a fertiliser bomb.

And, yes, we’ve all arrived at that convivial moment in the cook where we’ve said to ourselves, “Got the rice, got the papadams, got the . . . jeez, my eye’s itchy . . .”

And whack.

Unleash the cranial napalm.

Happy times.

Not much that can be done, initially.

You can try rapid head movement.

You can try hyperventilating, as if to air-condition the skull.

You can try rubbing sand or urine into your face as if it’s a jellyfish sting.

A jellyfish sting would be more pleasant.

But rubbing sand or urine into your face ain’t gonna help, contrary to what they taught me when I did my bronze medallion.

And it may be offputting for dinner guests.

You’ve effectively daubed hydrochloric acid on your eyeballs and, until you find a means to rinse it off (without urine, preferably), you’re gonna be amusing.

Best thing is to run water over it.

Which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, when the hazmat lights are going off.

“Cheers”, you say to your guests as you splash your gin and tonic into your face.

With any luck you’ll be able to resume normal transmission after a quick trip to the shower. A little puffy for your troubles.

And much more focused, next time, on rinsing your hands.

Ah yes, chillies – inherently action-packed little suckers.

And that’s not even talking about the aftermath of eating such a curry.

I remember, early on in the acquisition of parenting skills, the call went out to change our first-born’s nappy.

Neither parent had slept for a couple of days, as is the tradition with new-born babies.

Hence, a real premium had been placed on keeping the baby happy so the parents could slow down the march to insanity.

To aid in this process, I’d been busily preparing dinner that night.

Or was it day?

You tend to lose track.

I’d hardly got the chilli and garlic ready for the stir fry before the small fry started the characteristic porpoise sound of discontent, indicating one of four things was happening.

She was either too hot, too cold, hungry or floating in her own excrement.

What luck, option four.

As anyone knows, the gold medal under these circumstances goes to the person who can “make things better”.

That is, stop the crying.

For the exhausted mother who’d been trying to catch some shut eye, all she’d wanted to hear was her man doing the business on the business.

Actually, she wouldn’t have cared if the cat had managed to achieve the business, just so long as it was achieved.

For the man, the task was to live up to expectations, which to that point, were disappointingly low.

And on that front, may I say, nothing builds lack of confidence more than failure.

But the only emotion stronger than fear is hope.

And so, with steely determination, he’d put down his apron and grabbed a wiper and dibbed and dobbed and dabbed, as you do with this operation.

And he thought he’d done OK.

Until the howling commenced, almost as soon as he started dibbing and dabbing.

It was if he was stir-frying the baby.

Alas, peace in the valley was postponed yet again that day and a new chapter in family folklore written large.

When forensics ran a white glove over the crime scene, it became apparent kitchen duties had become mixed up in baby maintenance.

In the aftermath, relations between parents and child remained somewhat chilli. A real thaw point.

Chillies and contact lenses do not mix happily.

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