Hunka hunka burning eyeball
Before anyone gets all derisive about slurping noodles and how I received my just rewards for being so uncouth in my noodle-eating etiquette, I just want to state that I've never gotten anything in my eye from slurping before. And I'm a seasoned slurper.
Anyhow, although my tongue can handle a great deal of chilli pepper in any and all forms, my eyeball is not so weathered. It hurt! Had to irrigate my poor burning eye with contact lens saline solution (all I had at hand). Tip: If this happens to you, just squirt saline solution into eye straight from bottle; nevermind what they tell you; this works great.
But this experience got me thinking about the mildly turbulent relationship we have with chilli. Have you ever chopped birds-eye chillies (in Singapore, it's called chilli padi) with your bare hands? I did this one evening, a long time ago. A few hours later (have no idea why the time delay), my hands started burning the way they do when you've been in freezing weather a really long time and then you come in from the cold and your hands start warming up. Because several hours had passed since I'd cooked dinner, for the longest time I was absolutely alarmed, wondering what the heck was going on with my hands. I must have stared at them like they were mutating or something. Then I got the "Ohhhh!" moment, and have since been a little more respectful--or, removed--when slicing up those little guys.
Another incredible testimony to the power of the chilli is what happens to your lungs(?) if you're standing close to a pan of dry-roasting chillies. My mom used to do this before blendering them up to make a chilli paste. I bet it depends on the type of chilli, but the only kind my mother accepts is the sear-out-your-eyeballs kind. Anyhow, just being in the same room (which obviously would have to be the kitchen), it's like a switch turned on inside your lungs, and you automatically begin coughing. The first time someone explained this to me, I laughed (in between both of us hacking away) disbelievingly. But the minute I stepped out of the kitchen, the uncontrollable need to cough abruptly stopped. Stepped back into the kitchen, and my lungs started revolting again.
How unbelievable is that? Somehow, the...heat of the chillies was traveling through the air and into my lungs. And irritating the hell out of them.
And still I love "spicy" food. I have about six different chilli sauces in my fridge right now and I have to use at least one of them every day. I know, some would say I'm drowning out all other flavors. But it's definitely an addiction--the way some people need chocolate after a meal (I said some people, for god's sake, I didn't specify who). If you've ever eaten Vietnamese pho or Hainanese Chicken Rice, you know that without chilli sauce, these dishes would be naked, or at least half-dressed--like standing out on the street wearing nothing but a baseball cap and socks. How humiliating. Poor food. Don't do that to them.
You know, I really want to write more but, at the risk of being abrupt, I can't right now.