A recipe on how NOT to make chili. Humorous short story. Not suitable for younger readers.
How to Put Out a Fire
Copyright © 1999, 2007 by Bruce Younggreen
Three bags of dried beans stared balefully out at me from the pantry shelf. Whenever I was in the mood to fix something to eat, but I didn't know what, I'd open the pantry door and let my eyes sweep over the inventory within. The other foods didn't seem to care whether I selected them or left them alone, but there was something about those beans. My gaze would stop on them for a moment, lingering, wanting them, debating if I wanted to put that much time into a meal. In my imagination, the beans seemed to be pleading with me, hopeful, but not optimistic. In the end, time won out over and over again, and I moved on to other foods and it seemed to me that the beans sighed, mournfully watching me, disappointed again.
This time, I stopped and lingered as I always do. As I was about to dismiss the idea of making beans, it dawned on me: yes, they take a lot of time, and yes, I always want instant gratification, but I'd never make them at this rate. Besides, I lived alone and all I was going to do was watch TV all weekend anyway, so why not make up a pot of beans? I decided to go for it!
I put the three bags onto the countertop. Hmmm. Kidney beans, pinto beans, and small pink beans. I wondered, did I want them stewed like a bean soup, or baked in brown sugar and molassas, or ... ? It hit me then: I wanted chili! Good, hearty, meaty red chili!
After all, Monday night was football night and a couple of the guys were coming over. We'd have chips and salsa and cheese and beers anyway. Chili would be perfect! I opened the bags, dumped them into a big pot, filled it with water, and covered it with a dish towel so they could soak overnight.
I had to go to the store to get some of the items I'd be needing, most notably, the meat and dried red chili peppers plus a habanero pepper to give it a little zest. The following morning, I began preparing my chili.
First I drained the beans and put them into a large pressure cooker, awaiting the other ingredients. Next I sauted onions and garlic, then seared and browned the meat. These went into the pressure cooker on top of the beans. Tomatoes in various forms went in next, followed by the chili powder, cumin and ginger. The last ingredients to go in at this stage were the dried chilies and the habanero pepper.
Since the chilies were dried, I crushed them and pummeled them into a crumbly state. The habanero however was fresh, so I began slicing it into the thinnest slices I possibly could, being careful not to cut the fingers of the hand holding the pepper. Once sliced, I then minced the slices and made sure that every drop of moisture from the mincing made it into the cooker.
I put the lid on the pressure cooker and brought it up to high pressure. Now I could relax for the next 40 minutes. I popped a beer and settled down into my easy chair for some afternoon gridiron on the tube. By the time the buzzer went off indicating time was up, three empty cans stood stacked on the floor by my chair.
I got up and returned to the kitchen to release the pressure and remove the lid, squeezing my knees together because I really needed to relieve myself, but wasn't going to until I was finished touching the food. Then the last two ingredients, the mild green chilies and the corn, went into the thick, bubbling stew. Ten more minutes to heat the corn, and it would be done! I scurried into the bathroom and stood in front of the bowl, head thrown back, eyes closed, as the pressure within escaped. After finishing and shaking, I zipped up and washed my hands before heading back to the game. I never made it that far!
Although the habanero had not burned my fingers an hour ago, I was beginning to feel considerably more than a warm glow in the most sensitive area known to man! I had just enough presence of mind to turn the heat off before racing back to the bathroom, clothes flying off along the way, to jump into the shower where I turned the cold water on full force. It didn't help! The pain was unbelieveable! The heat kept building! It felt like a blowtorch was between my legs. No matter how hot it got, each second felt hotter than the previous one. I howled and doubled over, fully expecting to see second-degree blisters forming. There were no blisters. It wasn't even red. It just hurt like hell.
I kept hoping that I was rinsing the capsaicin oil off, but I was afraid to soap up because I didn't trust that my hands might be contaminant-free. The stream of water, although cold and making me shiver, was not helping cool the burn in any way. I was panicky and desperate for relief. "How do you put out the burn?" I wondered. I thought about what I do when I'm eating Mexican food, and it came to me. The only way to put out the fire in your mouth is to drink milk.
I dashed from the shower, dripping water everywhere, and raced back into the kitchen. I grabbed a tall iced tea glass and filled it with cold milk. When I submerged my afflicted anatomy, I could almost see the steam rising as the fire finally began to subside. I discovered, however, that every time I took the glass away, the smoldering embers re-lit the flames of agony all over again. I had to sit naked on the edge of a kitchen chair for more than 20 minutes before I could finally withdraw my temporary first aid. Before heading back to the shower to clean up, I searched under the kitchen sink for a pair of rubber dishpan gloves, just to make sure I wouldn't be starting any new fires anywhere!
Oh, by the way, the guys on Monday night told me the chili was excellent! I found myself perfectly content just taking their word for it!