Wednesday, October 31, 2012


To go with the Microessays published today:

They were both orange—the pumpkin and the habanero—so that seemed an obvious choice to put together for a delicious snack. Although seeds, once denuded of their sticky entrails were not as orange as the flesh and the habanero, now dried, had turned more green and brown than orange, somewhat like November. Still, both seed and powder, signaled all the orange that is fall, all the orange that is harvest. Fall is hidden potential, sewing its future in the promise of spring. It takes half a year for April’s green sprout to earn their October colors. A tiny seed weighing half a gram can, in a year from now, gather twelve pounds of body, converting fruiting air into replicating matter, like a pregnancy gathering a new person. All these tiny things get so big. A single habanero registers 200,000 to 300,000 Scoville units. Scoville units are designed to give you a sense of how hot a pepper will taste. For example, bell peppers register zero on the Scoville scale. Poblanos, 1,000-2,500. Capsaicin is the active component in peppers. Police use pure capsaicin, in the 16 million Scoville unit range. Capsaicin, contrary to popular belief, cannot actually harm you. It doesn’t cause ulcers although if you’re at the wrong-end of a can of pepper say, I imagine “harm” is in the eye of the beholder. Capsaicin actually provides several health benefits. Endorphins are released, which would explain why I kept eating the pumpkin seeds, salted with habanero peppers, roasted at 450, even though they kept burning my mouth. Also, capsaicin blocks neurons transmitting pain, forcing the nerves to act like they’re getting burned, overwhelming them, stopping them from sending painful data. Thus, capsaicin is used for all kinds of neurologic diseases and also for people who keep eating the habanero-covered seeds to stop thinking about their sinus infection and the fact they only slept 4 hours the night before and instead to keep eating the seeds even though the burning. Capsaicin is renowned for its help with arthritis which is why, after I took my contacts out with the same fingers that had spread the habaneros on the seeds and had scraped the seeds from the cookie sheet into the bow and lifted the seeds to the mouth, I rubbed my hands with lotion and my legs with lotion and my back and my cheeks with more and more lotion to try to rub the habanero into my body instead of into my eyes even though I don’t now have arthritis, I can hope for the promise of its preventative. As my eyes were streaming vast oceans of habanero-spiced tears, I washed my hands and lotioned my hands and rubbed and scrubbed my hands to put the habanero someplace else because the tiny difference between harm and hurt is possibly, to the eye, a semantic one, similar, say, to the semantic difference between 70 degrees on an October day and 70 degrees on an April one. 70 degrees, as you fall into winter, is something you want to hold on to, but you know you shouldn’t. You should put your gloves on and keep your eyes closed and try to forget all about orange. 


Mary Anne Mohanraj said...


Sandy said...

Love it! My goodness you are a good writer :) "They were both orange" is hilarious. I'll have to tell you about the time I accidentally made habenero spaghetti.