Thursday, October 31, 2013

kigaloween, and the tale of the scary spice

Kigaloween spirit 

Happy Halloween! Or Kigaloween, as I'm celebrating this year. The scariest smell of the week was definitely the overpowering olfactory force of the seeds of dozens of urusenda, or hot peppers (very hot peppers), that I was preparing for pili pili sauce (I followed these guidelines, plus olive oil and salt). Having been in Rwanda only three months, I am already at pains to tolerate a potato without the homemade hot sauce that's available at most restaurants. We use (and love) Akabanga and Sabana at home, but I wanted some of the fresh stuff, so I set about deseeding dozens of the beauties pictured below with the protection of some latex gloves (kindly provided by my friend and housemate, from her stash dedicated for use in archival research--who says it doesn't pay to live with graduate students?). I was not prepared for the power of these seeds! (My hands may have been, but my nose, throat, eyes, and brain were unguarded.) Even the next day--when the bulk of the seeds had been discarded, but a few remained, along with the peppers, waiting for the superglue to dry on the food processor (owned by that same beloved, well-prepared researcher)--everyone who entered the kitchen came away crying and coughing. 

My apologies, housemates! Please enjoy the hot sauce in the fridge, now de-weaponized. 

So I have even more sympathy than I otherwise might for the residents of Irwindale, California, who have filed a suit against Huy Fong Foods, maker of the indispensable Sriracha (and, even more delicious in my estimation, chili garlic sauce): 
...[In] Irwindale, where the hot sauce’s production facilities are, residents are complaining of burning eyes, irritated throats and headaches caused by a powerful, painful odor that the city says appears to be emanating from the factory during production. The smell is so aggressive that one family was forced to move a birthday party indoors after the spicy odor descended on the festivities, said Irwindale City Atty. Fred Galante.

The spicy odor descended! This is the kind of smell news I savor. I can just see the ghoulish little phantasm of a fiery pepper (probably baring teeth similar to those pictured on the pumpkin above) snaking into this celebration, forcing everyone to clutch their party hats and run inside with their cake. A judge will decide whether Huy Fong must "stop production until the smell can be reduced,"and I suspect I speak for hot sauce lovers worldwide when I say I hope the company and the city can come to a speedy resolution. Huy Fong produces 20 million bottles of Sriracha each year, and it's certainly scary to imagine all the foods out there, counting on that delicious spice, remaining bland in its absence.  

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