Thursday, November 22, 2018

this almost fucking killed me

Sorry for the blurriness, but here's a pic of the thing that almost killed me last night:


You're probably aware that capsaicin is the chemical that makes a hot chili pepper hot. Imagine distilling that essence, turning it into a sauce of its own, and selling that at the local grocery. Out of sheer primate curiosity, I bought myself a bottle of the stuff yesterday, and all day long in the office, I was—pardon the pun—burning with curiosity about it. I didn't actually crack open the bottle until I got back to my place, however, which turned out to be a good thing. More on that in a moment.

The bottle of capsaicin sauce was made of plastic; it had a narrow nozzle that made the bottle look as innocuous as a container for honey. Very unwisely, and with only the faintest idea of what I was about to experience, I squeezed a half-teaspoonful of the sauce into a spoon and rammed the sauce into my mouth before I could think twice about what I was doing. (Oh, yeah: I did sniff the sauce before tasting it, but the smell test revealed very little.)

The burn started almost immediately, and as the sauce trickled from my mouth and into my esophagus, I began hiccuping uncontrollably. The clinical part of my brain intoned, Some people react to spicy food by hiccuping. Thanks, Spock. Alone in my apartment, I said to myself, "You and your goddamn oral fixation." The pain inside my mouth was becoming unbearable, and I was flooded with a jumble of wild thoughts, including, This sauce is supposed to be mixed with other stuff. My breathing rate was beginning to change, and I was already starting to sweat. Mentally, I cast about for something that could act as first aid. My first thought was Find cold water, but my inner medic rejected that because water, as a treatment for ingesting capsaicin, can often make the situation worse. I ripped open my fridge and yanked out the pitcher of cold water, anyway, pouring myself a tall glass that I then began to sip at a slow, steady pace, hoping that, at the very least, the addition of water would dilute or diffuse the harsh effects of this most evil of sauces.

Sweat squeezed itself steadily out of my scalp and ran joyously down my face and neck, like kids sprinting down a hill. I kept sipping, vainly hoping for some sort of relief, but per the medical wisdom, the water really wasn't helping except in a temporary manner: the cold liquid would wash over my tongue and quell the burning for about two seconds, then the burning would return full-force immediately after, thereby necessitating more desperate sipping. This wasn't working. I began to think about alternative methods for dealing with a wildfire that was rapidly spreading from my mouth to my throat, and I lashed myself with a series of curses punctuated with a refrain that I chanted over and over: how could you be so fucking stupid?

An idea came to me: antacid tablets. I had a huge bottle of Kirkland antacid tablets, so I schlepped over to the bookshelf serving as my medicine cabinet, grabbed the antacid bottle, poured out five tablets, and chewed them down gratefully. This move produced an immediate effect, but it wasn't enough. My mouth still burned, and now there was a new problem.

The water I had been swallowing had carried the sauce down into my stomach, and my stomach had finally noticed the appearance of lava in its midst. It began as a warm glow, but rapidly turned into a hot, smoldering coal that burned with a hellish fire. Within a few minutes, and very much in spite of the antacid tablets, the heat became a monster that felt as if it were trying to punch its way out of my abdomen. The rest of my body responded in various crazy ways: my arms and legs became weak and shaky; my head began to spin, as if I were about to faint; my breathing became rapid and shallow. And because the pain was radiating outward from my stomach now, there was no comfortable position for me to assume. I tried lying on my bed, to no avail: I rolled onto one side, onto the other (I didn't dare roll onto my stomach!)—but no matter the degree of my pitch and yaw, the burning radiated outward in all directions. At one point, I was almost laughing as I felt a sudden urge to shit, even though I knew the sauce hadn't made it into my intestines yet. The urge passed.

Lying down and sitting up were becoming impossible, but I forced myself to shamble painfully over to the fridge because I had remembered that a carton of heavy cream lay within. The cream was supposed to be for the stuffing, but I was in fuck-it mode, and thus ready to do anything to survive. I reached the fridge, opened the door, feebly grabbed at the carton and, hands shaking, somehow managed to get it open without fainting. I guzzled a third of the heavy cream right then and there, then went back over to the antacid tablets and crunched down three more. That was eight tablets total—about double the normal complement I take when I have severe indigestion or acid reflux.

The heavy cream had a significant effect. I could feel the fires dying down, and I once again limped over to my bed and lay down, breathing rapidly and shallowly, my head cradled on a stack of pillows, and another pillow jammed under my jaw. I stared at the ceiling and pondered dying. Slowly but surely, my breathing began to smooth out, and the angry furnace of my stomach began, at long last, to simmer down. My mouth felt fine; my throat felt fine. After about twenty minutes in bed, my stomach was also fine, and even though all I wanted to do was sleep and recuperate from such a stupid mistake, I made myself stand up, put on a coat, and lumber out into the blessedly cold night to buy a stack of yogurt cups and other stomach-soothers. I made my purchases, came back to my place, downed the yogurt and sundries, then resolved not to prep my Thanksgiving stuffing until the following morning. I had laid the stuffing ingredients out before tasting the hot sauce; I quietly put everything back into the fridge and pondered how fortunate it was that I hadn't tried the sauce while still in the office: my coworkers would have had to call 119, the local emergency number.

This morning, after a blissful slumber, I woke up about two hours earlier than usual and set myself to prepping the stuffing. No ill effects from the previous night, thank Cthulhu; I was very worried that I had managed to give myself an ulcer. In the end, my jury-rigged, self-administered first aid had proved effective, but during those hellish twenty minutes, I had seriously wondered whether I was going to die. The thought made me chuckle bitterly: die here? In this goddamn apartment? That wasn't how I wanted to go. I cut up my onion, celery, and mushrooms, cooked the vegetables and the homemade sausage, cooked a batch of diced apples to add to the stuffing, herbed and seasoned everything, prepped a chicken broth to which I added the remaining heavy cream, tossed in my usual load of panko (apologies to all you bread purists), and made what I sincerely hope will be a decent stuffing. I was simply glad to be awake and alive and, with my apartment smelling like sage and maple syrup, I left for work a little bit wiser about the potency of capsaicin.



7 comments:

Charles said...

That looks like a challenge...

Kevin Kim said...

Oh, it was.

Charles said...

I posted that after the pic but before the post itself. Holy crap, dude. I wish I could have been there for that. I think you really needed someone by your side, laughing hysterically, to relieve the pain.

Kevin Kim said...

I'm pretty sure I would have looked as if I were in labor. Not just the look, but also the sounds: my groaning was pretty epic. I had to wonder whether my next-door neighbor thought I was having an amazing time whacking off.

John John McCrarey said...

Wow. Glad you pulled through. No warning label anywhere on that bottle? I mean, it seems like that sauce could easily be transformed into a murder weapon. Or a suicide tool.

So, are you going to continue to use it in a diluted state?

Kevin Kim said...

I'm certainly not throwing it away, but I haven't figured out how exactly to use the stuff.

John from Daejeon said...

I wish the stuff had been around back when I had a thieving office mate who liked taking other people's food. I would have liked to have put it in my cupcakes he loved stealing with some ex-lax to burn him both coming and going. I only got him going.

And next time to save your stomach and guts, try vomiting the irritant out and then swirling cool milk inside your mouth and then spitting it out. It shouldn't take more than a gallon's worth to cool your mouth down while not having to drink it all.