Saturday, 19 November 2011

Chili flakes

I never was a people person. When I was 5, I would make my mom call another little girl down the street for me because I was too scared to call her by myself. In elementary school I was very quiet and did not like to talk to kids who did not talk to me first. In high school I remember getting really bad headaches when I went to gatherings with kids I didn't know. I still have a phone phobia and get really nervous when approaching people I have never talked to before.

Becoming a scientist seemed like the perfect fit for a shy, socially awkward, book worm like myself. I did not realize that graduate school would require networking, collaborating, teaching, presenting research and traveling alone to conferences in foreign cities. The only way I made it through was by not thinking about it and just jumping in head first.

I think that is why I love the kitchen and cooking so much. It is the private, all-to-myself, quiet and solitary lab that I always envisioned myself working in that does not exist. I like having the control to be in there as long as I want, I can talk to myself but do not have to talk to anyone else, I can dance around, sing out loud, spill things, swear, laugh, frown and even cry really (that last one I try to avoid). 

Sometimes Mike walks in and I am startled back to reality, quickly assessing how crazy I look in that moment. Often I have my wooden cutting board, precariously resting between my two sinks with that days creation propped on top. This, I discovered, is where the best lighting is in my windowless kitchen. "Am I weird?" I ask, just to check. If I've truly lost it I trust he will be the one to tell me.

The experiment I was running in my lab kitchen on this occasion was to make my own chili flakes. I have my uncle Brian to thank for this little acquisition. When I spent an afternoon out in Abbottsford with my mom's twin brothers and my gramma, my uncle drove me out to a farmers field to pick a plethora of chili peppers. I think they are serrano chilies, or maybe thai chilies, but my uncle had another name for them which escaped me the moment I heard it.

He suggested I hang them to dry if I was not going to be able to use them all. I did this, twirling green twisty twine along the peppers stems and hung them in the window in the living room. I think it has been around one month since I did so. I was getting tired of seeing them hang there so in the midst of working on my thesis defense presentation, I took the peppers down and into the kitchen to make homemade chili flakes.

I cut them, one at a time, into my little food processor, the dry seeds spilling into the container. I must have placed about 20 or 30 cut up peppers and their seeds in the processor before closing it up and turning it on. It took several minutes to get a fine preparation. My whole face was itchy and sweaty afterwards, and inhaling the pepper dust caused me to go into several coughing fits. I suggest covering the processor with a towel if you try this yourself. When you open the food processor and transfer the peppers into a jar, however, there will be no escaping their potency so be prepared.

I'm so proud of that little spice jar though. The flakes are so RED. And the spice is so nice. I used a tiny pinch in a homemade spaghetti sauce which made it alarmingly spicy. The flavour was very potent, but it was a yummy spice, I just have to remember to use it sparingly. 

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