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It feels like spring. Time to fire up the grill!

I’m set to whip up some chile-rubbed pork, smothered with tomatillo salsa, grilled sweet potatoes, and a little jicama-arugula salad to brighten things up.

I have to make the salsa first. And the first step is to roast the dried chiles. I’m cooking with Rick Bayless, and I’ve made the recipe before. He recommmends one of two kinds, and I’ve always used the guajillo because I know its rich flavor well. But today I decide to step out of my comfort zone and pick up some arbols. They’re small, and yeah, I know that means hot, but Rick knows what he’s doing, right?

So I seed and stem the chiles (even a few less than he recommends) and toss them in a hot pan with a little oil. Almost instantly, my throat begins to burn. I think, hmmm, these are hot! They start to scorch almost immediately, so I take them off the heat and put them on a plate to cool. By this time, my eyes are watering. My nose is running. Oh, yeah, and I’m coughing uncontrollably. I seriously can’t stop. Every breath I take feels like it’s loaded with little daggers that are slashing the inside of my throat.

So I go outside, where, thankfully, the rest of the family is, to get some air.

Here’s where things get worse. I can’t fathom throwing the chiles out, and besides, I’m out of guajillos. So how bad can it be? I like hot. The house will clear out. I head back in to roast the tomatillos. The house is hazy. I open some windows. My throat still burns. I’m coughing, but getting used to it. Then Myles and his friend come in to play. They’re sitting in the living room, coughing like TB victims. I swear, if I had not pointed out the air was poisoned, they would still be sitting there pushing buttons on the video game controllers, wheezing and hacking. Reluctantly, they leave.

It’s about time for Simon to be getting ready for bed, so Ed brings him in. They both bark like seals for a few minutes then go upstairs to get Simon’s pajamas on. The tomatillos are finished roasting, so I follow them up. Somehow, the toxic haze has slithered up the stairs. It’s just as bad as the kitchen. Simon is playing with Ed, then collapses into a fit of coughing and gagging. Then the gagging turns into — vomit. Three slices of pizza and some barely-chewed popcorn have been regurgitated onto the carpet. The stain is still there.

Because I can’t give up, I whip the chiles together with the rest of the ingredients, and guess what? The salsa is so hot it’s inedible. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it, but whatever it is will wait until tomorrow. Tonight, it’s take-out.

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