Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Here are some words of advice, based on some lessons I've learned the hard way in my peppery adventures.

1. Capsaicin extract and bare skin should never meet. A few years back, while working our booth at a festival, I noticed that the lid on a bottle of Da Bomb The Final Answer wasn't screwed on right. When I picked up the bottle, the lid came off in my hands because the lip of the bottle was broken under the lid. Some of the sauce (capsaicin extract, actually, and it's stronger than military-grade pepper spray) spilled onto my fingertips. I wiped it off, wrapped up the bottle and threw it out, and walked to the nearest sink to wash my hands (a pretty long walk). Not much later, my fingers started to burn. In fact, every bit of me that I had managed to touch with my washed fingers started burning. The burn on my fingers was even worse the next day, and took several days to subside (despite much scrubbing with soap, alcohol and even milk). So if you ever have the misfortune of coming across a bottle of an ultra-hot hot sauce or Capsaicin extract that seems to be damaged or not properly sealed shut, HANDLE WITH EXTREME CAUTION (and with plastic gloves).

2. Beware of ultra-hot pepper fumes, especially if you have asthma or any other breathing issues. I once had to clean up the mess created by a shattered jar of Dave's Gourmet Insanity Salsa. I wish I had first put on one of those little blue "surgical masks" that you can get at a drugstore to prevent breathing in dust, pollutants, etc. After just a few seconds, the fumes emanating from the box slathered in ultra-hot salsa had me gasping for breath, sneezing uncontrollably, and tearing up my eyes (not good for a contact-lens wearer!). You'd think I'd learned my lesson, but a few weeks later I foolishly started to clean up a broken bottle of Matouk's Flambeau Sauce without first protecting my nose and eyes. Same uncomfortable consequences, of course. Rest assured that the next time I encounter a broken bottle or jar of one of our hotter products, I'll make sure to don one of those little blue nose masks and remove my contact lenses (and put on gloves) before tackling the mess.

3. NEVER touch contact lenses within 24 hrs of handling hot peppers with your bare hands. I confess to rarely wearing gloves when chopping raw hot peppers such as jalapenos or habaneros, because they simply don't hurt my skin (I've built up a resistance, I think, since most people do feel a burn). However, over Christmas I made the mistake of chopping 1 habanero (just 1) with bare hands while cooking dinner with my contact lenses on. That night before bed (and several hand-washings later), I removed my contacts and cleaned them. The next morning, when I attempted to put my contacts back in, I almost screamed from the instant pain upon putting a lens in one eye. Apparently the hand-washing (and even my morning shower) had not removed ALL the natural capsaicin from my fingers, and some residue had transfered onto the contact lenses while removing them (and the overnight disinfection hadn't removed the residue). I re-cleaned and disinfected my lenses, and 2 days later was able to wear them again. The next time I got ready to chop habaneros in the kitchen, I made sure to remove my contacts first!

If you've learned any peppery lessons the hard way, drop us a line to share your words of wisdom and advice!

Zestfully yours,

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