Habanero Night -or- Why My Roommate Now Wears Glasses

Monday, September 22, 2008

"That'll be 45 cents."

"Here ya' go!" handing the change to the lady behind the table. The huge box of bright orange crumples, which blocked most of her small, mountain-hermit frame, reflected the light in my eyes. I squinted in order to see and reached over for the double bagged package of scotch bonnet peppers, otherwise known as habaneros.

Over the last few weeks I had been experimenting with various chilies; pickling jalapenos, making chili oil for stir frys, chopping up birds eye chilies for curries. Each chili I tried was a new experience, it was interesting noting some of the flavors behind the heat. The vegetal, slight apple-like flavors of the poblanos and the heady scent of the rocotillo all intrigued the senses and scalded my mouth with fiery punishment.

My roommate, Danielle, is far more adept at chili eating than me. While many times I have to race for milk and bread, she simply chomps away and gives me a queer look and responds, "It's not that hot."

So, I decided to pick her up some habaneros to see if she could handle them and to see if I could as well.

As I walked in from the market I called her out, "Bitch! I got you some hot peppers for tonight! Let's see if you can handle these!"

"Oooo! Fun! Can't wait! I'll use them in a spicy turkey ragu!" she beamed. She has a mean healthy streak that inspires odd, but surprisingly tasty dishes. A noble culinary endeavor that keeps me from resorting to fast food some nights (I work full time and go to school full time, get off my case!).

Fast forward to the taste test.,,

"I made sure to choped them up real fine so it should be pretty spicy."

"Um... okay. Well, bottoms up," I said with trepedation, my brain already reconsidering just how smart an idea this was. You could smell the heat, the dish radiated a musky spice whose scent itself caused me to begin to sweat and my nose to run.

We took a bite.

It. Was. Incindiary.

We both chugged out milk down and raced for bread. Our cheeks puffed with dairy soaked bits of corn muffins as we prayed for it to soak up the capsaicin laden oil searing every nook and cranny of our moths and throats.

I choked down the bread and milk, "Didn't you seed and devein it!?"

"No, I just chopped it all up and added it!" Danielle sluged down another gulp of milk. She put it down and began to wipe the sweat from her eyes. I used the back of my sleeve. We were both perspiring as if we had run a marathon.



"OW! Oh, it's in my eye! It's behind my contact lens!!! OH GOD! OH DEAR GOD!!!" and she screamed up the stairs like greased lighting and threw her face into the sink and turned it on full blast. The humorous part was she didn't wash her hands before trying to get the contacts out, making a bad problem only far, far worse.

The lessons here are twofold: 1) use gloves for chili pepers, 2) seed and devein your chilies, and 3) if you get habanero oil on your contact lenses you won't get it off and you will be ordering a new pair.


  1. That's happened to me. Ouch! I wear hard contact too so it really gets on them. I also find that the scotch bonnet peppers seem more "oily" and burn more than the habanero even though their heat level is about the same.

  2. That has happened to my wife as well! Habaneros have been the most abundant "crop" from our backyard garden here in Sacramento, very very tasty, and the heat is ever-present and pleasant (as long as we don't over-do it).

    Cool post.

  3. OMG
    Funny story, but I wear contacts so I winced.
    I had a family friend pick peppers in our garden and then rub his eyes. I have never seen a grown man jump a fence so quickly. He dove in the pool and then realized HIS mistakes. heh heh
    I have similar challenges with friends and cooking. They're all fun.

  4. Garrett, we need to talk. We are growing Filipino chilies and these things are EXPLOSIVE. Frankly, they scare the hell out of me.

  5. I just heard from one of my students, that her friend was chopping jalapenos, when her husband walked in and took her to the bedroom to make love :)..rest is history - they had to rush to emergency

  6. OUCH - been there done that! I grow many hot peppers in my garden and the habaneros scare me. I have coworkers that wait for them all summer though. I experienced pain from seeding a huge bowl of jalapenos to make bacon wrapped poppers on the BBQ. No gloves and the palms of my hands burned for at least a day...ugh.

  7. Oh my goodness what a story - and I wear contacts so I winced, too! My boyfriend just bought some habanero powder as a gift for his dad'd birthday and just smelling it (wafting, not sniffing!) made my eyes water. Ouch.

  8. holy drawers....! I hope she's ok!

  9. I learned a similar lesson when I went to go pee after chopping serranos... had to stand under a cold shower for 20 minutes.

  10. Oh, I've had the Habanero eye.
    I thought I was teaching my husband a lesson about adding tabasco to my homemade soup.

    I just pass him the tabasco now.

  11. Been there. I actually like habaneros, though. Very tropical and VERY fruity -- right before the hatchet cleaves your palate.

    And yeah, that oil gets in all sorts of unwanted places....

  12. this reminds me of your story I read a long time ago...something about you rubbing your eye and ending up running around half naked....was there a pool in that story too. I'm going to have to look it up and have another giggle.

    and as always Viva La Eat Beast.

  13. Hilarious, I was laughing so hard :)


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