My Mama has made chili for the family every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember. It's just One of Those Things(tm). If there's no chili, it's not Christmas Eve. (A post on various other Christmas traditions will be forthcoming at a later date and time.) And my Mama has always used Williams Chili Seasoning to make her chili.
Williams Chili Seasoning is such an ingrained part of my family's chili experience that periodically my parents will send my brother a package for Christmas that contains nothing but dozens and dozens of Williams Chili Seasoning packages. Scott is unable to find it out in his part of the country, and thus considers it a fantastic Christmas Present whenever he gets it.
Needless to say, my inclination for our chili was to get a seasoning packet and go to town.
When I casually mentioned to Sam that I was contemplating making us chili, he immediately lit up like a child on Christmas morning when they're finally allowed to open all of those presents. (I'm taken to understand that some families force their children to wait until after Christmas Dinner to open their presents. That was not how I was raised. But again, that will be a post forthcoming at a later date and time).
"You're going to make it from scratch? Right? I mean, I've never really cared for the prepackaged mixes, and you're so good at making stuff..."
That was Sam, by the way.
Also, that may or may not be an exact quote of what he said. But that was the general gist.
Anyway, I started crying on the inside, but unwilling to show fear to my beloved, I replied: "Of course I am going to make it from scratch! That's totally how I roll!"
Again, that may or may not be an exact quote of what I said.
Next grocery trip we made, I started gathering up the ingredients I was going to need. Tomato sauce, kidney beans (light red and dark red), hamburger, sausage, diced tomatoes, and so forth. Then I had to figure out what spices to put in. I had done a wee bit of research online, and had quickly determined that there are as many different recipes for chili as there are people who make chili. After consideration, the set of spices I opted for consisted of spices I already had, save for coriander.
Feeling good about my plans, we continued on our merry way, until we got to the veggie section. I wanted to toss a red bell pepper into the chili, and Sam suggested adding jalapeños and Serrano peppers to the mix. I had never worked with either (though I had eaten my fair share of jalapeños over the years), but I was confident I could figure it out.
Next day, I decided to go ahead and make the chili in the crock-pot. I figured that jalapeños and Serrano peppers were like bell peppers in how one prepped'em, so I lopped off their tops, cleaned out the seeds with my fingers, cut out the white stringy stuff, chopped'em up, and continued on with the cooking. Not long after I had everything cooking in the crock-pot, a couple of my friends kidnapped me to go up to the city with them and help them repaint their old apartment.
As the day went on, I noticed that underneath a couple of my fingernails there was a burning sensation going on, but if I was applying pressure (like when holding a paintbrush) it wasn't really noticeable, and so didn't think anything of it.
Sam and I greatly enjoyed the chili that evening, and continued to eat off of it for the next three days. We enjoyed it so much, in fact (and it was so cost effective), that we decided to make chili again a week or so ago, especially since it had gotten colder and our heater wasn't working properly (it's working better now).
I made a few minor adjustments to the spices I used, but pretty much did everything the same way again. This time, after I prepped everything and threw it into the crock-pot, I immediately noticed that my hands had a burning sensation--much more intense than what had happened the first time. I tried washing my hands, and that helped a little bit, but it was certainly aggravating. My hands had turned bright red, and it felt as if hundreds of needles were trying to get out from under my skin. After an hour or two, it finally faded away, and by the time Sam got home that night it had passed from my mind.
Today, I came across a blog post from Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, talking about his beginning adventures in cooking. I highly recommend it, as it is completely hilarious (as one would expect of Scott Adams). However, I did learn something very important:
That burning sensation? The one that Scott Adams described as
Imagine turning a broom upside down, so the pointy bristles are facing up. You take your hand, palm facing down, and bounce it on the pointy bristles. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that feels on your hand? Okay, good.
Now imagine that a giant troll sees you playing with the broom. He snatches it out of your hand, chews the handle into a point and shoves it so far up your ass that you can taste it. Then he uses you like a huge flyswatter to kill a nest of porcupines that are living in his salt mine. My hand hurt like that.
Yeah, that's from the jalapeño juices.
So, if you ever decide, my dear friends, that you want to chop up and use a jalapeño in something that you're cooking, please, in the name of all that is good and holy, wear rubber gloves!
This message was sponsored by the Angel Cole Learn from My Fail department.