The Great Serrano Incident of 2007

Yesterday was not a terribly fun day. First off, Saturday night was date night, which involved vodka, pinot noir and some sort of champagne and Chambord concoction that the hostess swore on her life, was “Soooo refreshing!”, except that it sounded more like, “Soooo wefweshing! Sewiously, SO wefweshing! Twy it!” Might I point out, she didn’t seem to have a speech impediment during the previous 5 minutes while we chatted it up. No, she was just a hostess with a viable drinking problem. That or she was totally nervous around D, which we ALL know can happen to the best of us in conversations.

Sunday morning crept up on us way too soon, with a baby singing falsetto from his crib at 6:30am. I don’t really know who this baby was, but he definitely wasn’t Wito. Let’s call him Needy von Neederstein. “Neevonee” graced us with his presence for the entire day yesterday. Pick me up! Put me down! WAHHHHHH! Pick me up! Put me down! WAHHHHH! This coupled with a pounding headache and that creepy skin feeling almost took me over the edge. In fact, I do remember looking at the clock at 1:30pm and declaring, “This is the LONGEST day ever! Will it ever end?! WHY, NEEVONEE, WHHHHYYYYYYY?”

The day was dragging – Sunday nights are Taco Night, and I decided to make guacamole. Specifically, a recipe for Chipotle guacamole that I found online, which tastes almost exactly like the real thing. This recipe calls for Serrano peppers. Now, I’ve worked with Serranos before, and given my unbelievably sensitive skin, I have worn gloves in the past. Except yesterday, in my hungover haze, I convinced myself that I had seeded Serranos in the past without gloves with no problems.

I am still trying to figure out why I didn’t just put some damn gloves on. Maybe I was still a little tipsy, or maybe I am a stupid, STUPID masochistic individual. Regardless, I seeded, minced and handled the peppers for about 15 minutes before washing my hands. Mother Fucker.

Wow. It burns, people. It burns bad. And it burns for a long time, even when soaking your hands in vinegar, followed by milk, followed by holding ice cubes while trying to not visualize blisters forming underneath your skin. Then, cutting off your nails in order to get into the little spaces where the oil has seeped into your fingernail beds. And then, googling repeatedly, only to find this over and over:


Note: Handle Serrano chiles with care. Protect your hands because the capsaicin can make the skin burn. Wear rubber gloves, or coat your hands with oil, which native cooks have done for centuries. Once your hands or gloves have been in contact with chiles, do not touch your lips, eyes, face, or delicate body parts. To prevent burning those sensitive areas later, scrub your hands and arms vigorously with plenty of hot soapy water. Don’t rinse chiles in water because this removes the oils, which hold much of the chile’s flavor. Preparation will depend on the desired heat.

I, Whoorl, am here to impart my pepper oil wisdom to you. NOTHING works, except time. I tried every folk remedy under the sun (thanks to Google and my fellow twitterees!), but they all sucked (NO thanks to Google and my fellow twitterees!). Luckily, 3 hours later (180 minutes! 10,800 seconds!), the Level 10 Mind-Numbing Hell Fire morphed into what I’d refer to as a Level 6 Slow Burn.

I’d also like to mention how hard it is to NOT touch your face or eyes or baby for several hours due to the residual Capsaicin oil, which doesn’t completely come off your skin for 12 hours. It’s similar to getting a manicure, when all of the sudden, your nose just WON’T STOP ITCHING, and yes, YES, the eyes! The eyes are itching too! But you musn’t touch! DON’T TOUCH, for the love of God!

After a good night’s sleep (praise Jebus), the slow burn has now diminished to a Level 1 Tingle. And the world is right again.

  1. LVGurl

    July 2, 2007 at 9:21 am

    What a harrowing experience! I had no idea a pepper could wreak so much havoc on one’s skin, let alone come with its own safety warning.

  2. natalie

    July 2, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Holy bejesus. That sucks to the fullest degree. I tried, I failed. *Hangs head in shame* I had a similar experience (thus the milk and salt and lemons blah blah, it still fucking burns) and it just took some time to stop burning/blistering/sucking hardcore.

  3. Pritters

    July 2, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Love your site! Don’t love serrano chilies. This exact thing happened to me except I went the extra mile and touched MY EYE!!!! MY EYE!!!! You’ve never seen horror until you’ve seen a three year old crying from seeing Mommy crying. Three days it took for the pain to go away.

  4. sizzle

    July 2, 2007 at 11:15 am

    just be grateful you didn’t touch a “delicate body part”- heh. sounds horrific. honestly, i can barely be in the same ROOM as a chili pepper. i’m such a wimp.

  5. nabbalicious

    July 2, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Sweet Jesus! I knew it could be bad, but THAT bad?

    A few weeks ago, I stupidly rubbed my eyes after handling jalapenos. OW OW OW.

  6. cocodrie

    July 2, 2007 at 11:36 am

    I’m sorry, I’m still stuck on this portion of the online warning: “Once your hands or gloves have been in contact with chiles, do not touch your lips, eyes, face, or delicate body parts.”

    Delicate body parts? Bwah. As if one would wanna get frisky after THAT.

    Yes, apparently this whole phenomenon is called “Hunan Hand” (due to the prevalence of peppers in Asian cooking), and many times males will take a piss after handling the peppers, thus spreading the oil all over the “delicate area”. Bwahahaaa!

  7. Cricket

    July 2, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    I’m not much for spicy food… and you’re helping me stay that way! :-P

  8. Married Jen

    July 2, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I’ve had the same thing happen to me. It’s hell on earth. And you are right! NOTHING WORKS but time.

    Thanks for the guac recipe though! I was going to make taco salad tonight and I think that will go nicely!

  9. andrea

    July 2, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Ouch! That sounds horrible. Glad the hands are back to normal today.

    Tell me the guacamole was worth all the pain, that is, if you were able to finish it.

  10. 180/360

    July 2, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I’m glad I read this because I have a whole bunch of pepper’s in my garden that need to be picked and used. I would’ve thought myself invicible and forgone the gloves, but instead will heed your advice. Thanks!

  11. janet

    July 2, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    whew knew guacamole could be so dangerous?!?

    I remember once when we were kids my sister accidentally touched some peppers to her lips and my mom coated them in sugar to try to take away the burn. I was always jealous that she got to basically eat mounds of sugar in the name of “suffering” because of some “burns”

  12. Kami

    July 2, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Yikes. Thanks for the warning. I once touched my eye after handling jalepenos…

    This sounds much, much worse. Glad you survived!

  13. Tina

    July 2, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Major suckage. Lesson learned.

  14. metalia

    July 2, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Good Lord! That sounds awful. (And yet, I still want to make the guacamole. What is wrong with me?) Glad you’re recovering (relatively) quickly!

  15. Sadie

    July 3, 2007 at 5:51 am

    Mmmm, this story makes me hungry! I heart the spicy. But not searing my flesh so much.

    oh, yeah, and sorry about your burny hands, that sounds pretty shitty. Naturally, Sunday would be a day when your jovial baby turned into a shrieking needermeister. That’s how it always happens.