Friday Fuck Up: Taking the Red Eye


They look so delicious, right? But every chili pepper has a dark side. So far I have only written a few blogs for ES so I am filled with pride and a little shame that I can already add  this post to the long legacy of Friday Fuck Ups.

After my initial post for ES, I have been enthused with trying out some new ideas and so I thought I would make a few dishes this weekend (which will be posted in the near future):  poblano and chorizo risotto, tilapia tacos, homemade tortillas and a few salsas you’ve already heard about.  I picked up all my ingredients including jalapeno, poblano and chipotle peppers. I only needed a dozen jalapenos so I roasted them on the grill and decided that I should be fine just using my bare hands to scrape out the seeds….


Capsaicin is the active ingredient in peppers and I am typically extremely respectful of what it can do. But I was in a hurry with the prep work that day and thought I would be fine. You probably can guess what happened next, but whatever you’re thinking, it was much worse. In the next five minutes, I must have touched my eye and also scratched my nose so what began was a quick journey through at least 4 circles of hell.

Eyes began watering, nose was running, slowly my fingers began feeling like they were on fire. I had made a rookie mistake and was now paying for it with a case of Hunan Hand. Things quickly got worse and I had the full complement of bloodshot eyes, an inflamed nasal passage that was excruciating to breath through and my fingerprints felt like they were peeling off.

With no idea about what to do about the eyes and nose, I knew that before anything I had to limit the burning on my hands. I began with simply washing my hands but quickly moved on to lemon juice and salt as one of the few supposed remedies I had heard of, but neither did very much. It continued to escalate and soon  I couldn’t distinguish what was the oil and what was me crying like a 5 yr old who found out there was no Santa Claus.

I politely asked (or pathetically whimpered) wifey to look up some other possible remedies while I stuck my head under the faucet. We tried everything we found on the interweb: baking soda and water, cocoa butter, milk, yogurt  etc… and they were all about as effective as a water gun on a blazing inferno. All of this took about 30 minutes and I was feeling somewhat defeated. The other possible remedies I found were getting stranger and stranger and since I was not going to pee on my hands like one site recommended, I decided the only possible option left was just to suffer in silence. I put my hands in a nice cold glass of milk, put a milk-soaked towel where I could and decided a bottle of wine from the Finger Lakes might be the best treatment available.

I am writing this blog hours later and while most of me is back in good form, my fingers still burn and have some small blisters, neighborhood cats are looking at me funny and a slight wine headache is setting in. Hopefully, you won’t make the same mistake I did because “Now you know and knowing is half the battle.” As for the meal, it ended up being delicious but I still haven’t decided if it was worth it.

So, ESers — feel free to feed us back with your own stories of chili peppers gone awry. But more importantly, what do you do to make this stop?!? And please, don’t tell me to pee on my hands.

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  • erica September 10, 2010  

    so, physical harm when the meal was fine counts as a fuck up? in that case i should submit one of these days…

  • BS September 10, 2010  

    @erica: please do! all tales of personal harm inflicted in the kitchen will be welcomed, mocked, and perhaps even empathized with here at ES.

  • scott September 11, 2010  


    At least you didn’t go to the bathroom.

  • Borracho September 11, 2010  

    Ha. Very true and no amount of Valtrex would help that burn.

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  • Maids September 13, 2010  

    @Erica…. have to agree with that. Can’t count the number of times I’ve hurt myself in the kitchen but ended up with a successful meal!

  • Borracho September 13, 2010  

    Couldn’t agree more with any of the comments. I think most people who read this blog have some good cuts, burns, singes and other injuries in the pursuit of a good meal. It is the real obvious mistakes that we coulda/shoulda avoided that make us say “Man I fucked up”

  • Stacy Shanks November 21, 2010  

    I keep flour on hand when I’m working with peppers. I lightly coat my hands in a dusting of flour before I start working with peppers. If at any time I can feel the pepper burn on my skin, I just recoat my hands with flour. It doesn’t take much and it works wonders. (I’m usually only using my peppers for green chili though, so I don’t have to worry much about the flour). Other than that, you can dip your hand in cold raw egg to stop the burn.
    For your eyes, well, I’m clueless. I wear glasses so I sort of have my own safety shield there! Good luck.

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