Please enjoy my retrospective and recollections of thymes past.
I’ve always considered myself to have a really bad memory. But apparently, there are some things you can never forget. Even if you want to. These are those stories.
There was the old stove that was bad to the bone: When Stoves Go Bad
Then there was the incident with the microwave that required jettisoning it into the yard for a time out: Microwave Predicts Snow
But the worst kitchen disaster I ever caused happened when I wasn’t even cooking. Unfair!
I tried to find any evidence that I wrote about it at the time it occurred but apparently I was too traumatized to report on what happened…for reasons that will become painfully obvious.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPER DISCLAIMER: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME
A few years back in the fall, I was having a typical evening at home with my son while he was with his ABA aide. This was a time of much productivity for me since I could leave my child tended by another person and run around the house doing whatever my heart desired.
This evening, I decided to plant bulbs. Now this is quite a daunting prospect because I’m an impulse shopper who doesn’t think about the poor, rock-filled soil my yard actually possesses. Not to mention that I buy everything when it goes on half-price sale, late in the season, and now the ground is half frozen!
Every time I go to a greenhouse, I’m lured by the most enticing bulb options. You will be astonished to know I have purchased literally hundreds of bulbs only to be surprised when I get home that I then have hundreds of bulbs that need planting. It’s a mystery, it truly is.
[Sidebar: I can totally understand how Tulip-o-Mania caused the collapse of the Dutch economy after the Exotic Tulip Bulb market crashed back in 1636. ]
I’ve got a black thumb when it comes to house plants, but the nice thing about bulbs is all you really have to do is dig a hole, toss in a little bone meal, and drop them in. They take care of the rest for the most part. But there is a caveat you non-gardeners may not know: beware the bunnies and underground dwellers with gnashing teeth.
Squirrels and moles just LOVE chomping up all the beautiful bulbs you so carefully plant. And the one’s they leave alone to sprout in the spring then get eaten by the rabbits. In their minds, you are seeding the ground with a smorgasbord and they don’t understand why you get upset when they chow down on the tuberous deliciousness.
In an effort to prevent this floral massacre–a friend tells me that the animals don’t like cayenne pepper and sprinkling it in when you plant the bulbs helps to stave off predation.
This is why this story exists; because I tried to outwit vermin.
The afternoon starts off promising. The kid is being good, I’m working my way through the rocks in my yard to plant half of the bulbs on one side along the walk way. I have a pattern and a plan I am following. Life is good.
I learned that one way to keep rodents from eating your bulbs was to plant daffodils alongside them. I’m not a huge fan of daffodils despite them being my birth flower–no scent, nor staying power. Give me a bouquet of stargazer lilies any day. But I plant some grudgingly because I learned from the previous year, if you don’t do anything, the bulbs get devoured. This time I also sprinkle some cayenne pepper in for good measure.
I’m moving at a decent pace, but only halfway through I’m starting to tire from the jarring “CLANG” every time my trowel hits a rock in the dirt. (My yard is easily 90% rocks. I think they built my house on the leavings of a nearby quarry.) And I’ve run out of Cayenne pepper.
I look around, the sun is going down, I’m exhausted. It’s starting to sprinkle. I should just pack it in for the evening…but boy, I really don’t think I want to come back out here tomorrow night. I decide to muscle through the pain and overcome! I can do this! But what can I use instead of cayenne pepper?
I go into the house–wave to my kid who is being bribed with gummies to recite sentences from flashcards–and I look in my cupboards for a cayenne substitute. It’s gotta be hot and noxious enough to ward off the hordes of toothy visitors. But my tummy can’t handle hot foods…I don’t think…
Oh…wait. There’s a giant jar of chili flakes leftover from my mother-in-law’s house. I could use these–but there was only about a cup left in the bottom of the giant jar. I’m blaming the Food Network for what happens next.
I get a brilliant idea.
“I know! I’ll pour the flakes into my Cuisinart and chop them up really small so they will go further!”
Those of you who work professionally as chefs are laughing; please, try not to judge. Everyone else, brace yourself.
I’ve get down my giant Cuisinart–it has plenty of room. I pour ALL of the chili flakes left into the basket. It has a wicked sharp blade and I’m certain it will grind the chili flakes up really fine. I put the complicated cap on and hit the button that sends the blade whirling.
At first, I watch the spices spin round and round at high speed and slowly a fine powder is forming. Excellent! It doesn’t take long, however, for the blades to reduce that powder to an even finer substance–microscopic particles small enough to float on air. In seconds, my house is filled with a spicy, searing cloud. My lungs are on fire. My eyes are watering. It’s getting harder and harder to breathe.
In less than a minute, I had pepper sprayed my entire house.
My kid and his caretaker start coughing in the living room. My child is melting down like a nuclear reactor gone critical. We are blindly directing him outside in the rain where he can have his hysterics–justified, totally justified. I go back in the house to turn on the weak 1950’s fan over the stove and try to open some windows to vent the fumes. I am dying by the time I get back outside, and not just because of the toxic fire I’ve inhaled. No. It’s also because my son is getting more upset that the windows are open and he’s going around the house–from the outside–slamming them shut.
I grab my purse, coax my sobbing child and the ABA aide into my car, and we go for a car ride to give ourselves–and the house–time to recover.
It has been decades since I went through basic training. But I promise you, if you’ve ever experienced a gas chamber, you never forget that horrible choking sensation of inhaling poisoned air. This had been just as bad, if not worse, since I wasn’t prepared with a gas mask in hand when it happened. And I gassed my child insensate with pain and rage.
Just so you know, I finished planting those damned bulbs in the most haphazard fashion and dumped that powdery napalm along with each bulb–hoping the bloody squirrels would choke on it.
It must have worked, because the flowers bloomed quite prettily the next spring.
According to MedicalNewsToday: The main component of pepper spray is an oil known as oleoresin capsicum. This oil comes from plants in the genus Capsicum, which includes chili peppers. The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, the same chemical that adds the characteristic heat to chili peppers.