her grandmothers' genes

One thing my mother and my mother-in-law have in common is a dislike or intolerance of spicy food. Each has her own way of showing it. If a dish is too spicy-hot, my mother-in-law will eat what she can and choke discreetly with sips of cool water. My mother will sigh dramatically, take large gulps of water, flap her hand in front of her mouth, then ask politely "How exactly did you season this?"

This is not the case for the men they married or the children they bore. My dad, my brother, my husband, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law and I all share a liking for spicy food. My BIL will go into a Thai restaurant, order the hottest thing on the menu, then get sriracha on the side in case it's not hot enough. I've seen my brother dump spoonfuls of habanero pepper onto his tacos, go red in the face, sweat profusely at the collar, and claim "it's really not so bad."

This incongruity in spice tolerance means whenever there's a family meal, the dishes are made to suit the delicate palates of the elder ladies, but generous bottles of hot sauce and chili powder are provided for those of us who have killed off more capsaicin receptors than we like to admit.

Tonight when I was making egg curry for dinner, I must have spilled some cayenne pepper on the floor. I get almost all my spices from Penzey's, and I've noticed that their cayenne is much more potent than anything I've gotten at the grocery store or even the bulk spices bin at the co-op. Anya spends a lot of time on the floor, and she obviously scooted her way through that dusting of cayenne because out of the blue, her face turned red and she started wailing with pain. Stuart saw red powder on her fingers and immediately rinsed her hands, but it was too late. The damage was done. For the next 20 minutes, my poor baby girl cried and cried and cried. She refused to be held. She refused to nurse. She refused to have a drink or water or milk. She refused a cold wet washcloth to suck on. She just bounced around the kitchen with her fingers in her mouth, crying pitifully, with her eyes watering, her nose running, drooling profusely.

There was nothing to do but wait it out. After several minutes of misery, Stuart managed to distract her by taking her to the window and playing with the blinds. Eventually, her sobs abated and she happily ate some goldfish crackers and shredded cheese for dinner. After a few bedtime stories, all was forgotten.

She's got a long way to go before she sets a world record.


Oh, poor thing! I'm so sorry she went through that. Babies' taste buds are (I read somewhere) hundreds of times more sensitive to flavors than adults; this is part of the reason why most baby food is bland until they get older. I hope she feels better soon!
Steph said…
Oh dear. I feel guilty about how much I laughed at this story. I'm sure it was no picnic for any of you. Poor Anya!
Anonymous said…
Poor baby!! Most of us have that experience when we're older. i was in college, I think, when I picked some pretty little red peppers from my aunt Edna's garden, and it was maybe an hour later that I rubbed my eyes and yo mama!! did they burn1

sympathetic Oma
How is your leg doing, Mrs. G? I've been thinking about you and sending good vibes your way for a speedy recovery!
Claire said…
Remind me to tell you the story about my dad and Sam having a fresh chili pepper eating contest sometime.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for asking. It is getting better. I still have 6 weeks to go before I can put weight on it. Sigh! I'm doing lots of reading and watching TV and not much else. It's not as much fun as you might think!

Mrs. G.
Pam said…
Oh no! Poor little Anya! I wonder if she'll be one of the ones who likes the spicy or not...
Sakhiwo said…
And then there was the time your BIL DID get enough red pepper. When he was 4 or 5 he came along with me to a rural market in Kenya. Without my noticing he picked up a red pepper from the pile on the ground a woman was displaying to sell. A bit later he rubbed his eyes and the agony began!
Mrs. G,
I know laying around is not fun at all. The last three months I was pregnant with Jamie, I was on strict bedrest; I was only allowed to get up to use the rest room and shower. After I week, I was bored out of my skull! You have my complete sympathy. Puzzle books helped a lot.

I hope the next weeks pass swiftly for you!
Animal said…
All of Anya's crying begs the question: how do spice-loving parents begin to introduce hot foods to their children?

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