What, you might be wondering, does a single gringa do on Valentine's Day in Chile? Take pictures of her feet, obviously.
That and prepare one of her favorite Chilean dishes, porotos granados.
I stuffed my bags full of the necessary ingredients this morning at the neighborhood street market, where one of the vendors gave me an extra nectarine "because it's Valentine's Day" and proceeded to ask if I was married. Back at home, I set to work stringing beans, shucking corn and chopping hot peppers, pumpkin and onions.
The latter vegetable was the first to give me trouble. As eyes tend to do in the presence of onions, mine began to sting and water. And, as people tend to do when their eyes sting and water, I started rubbing at mine.
Bad idea, Leigh. Especially when your fingers are covered in the blood of the hot peppers you've just butchered.
It was ten times worse than being tear gassed because I couldn't run away from it while sputtering "Pacos culia'os." As I stumbled blindly toward the bathroom with my eyes and forehead burning, I couldn't help but almost feel sorry for the guy I pepper sprayed in the face several months back -- as almost sorry as you can almost feel for a guy who almost dragged you into the dark to do God knows what.
I fumbled around at the sink until I managed to turn on the faucet. The water I began splashing over my face seemed to do little good, however. It occurred to me that my fingers were still covered in pepper juice and that I was actually making things worse for myself by using them to try to cleanse my eyes. Thus, I did what the information on the package of my pepper spray canister warned me not to do: wash affected skin with soap. This may be why my hands are currently peppered with (no pun intended) red blotches that sting like hell. In retrospect, I should have just run out into the patio and put my entire face under the hose, but heads smeared with burning pepper juice do not tend to think logically.
I spent several minutes dousing my face and eyes with water. Eventually, the pain subsided enough to allow me to return to the kitchen and continue cooking. Every so often, I would fill a glass with water and pour it over my face, then return to the stove to stir the ingredients while a steady stream of water dripped from my chin.
About half an hour later, I finally sat down with a plate of porotos and a DVD of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which begins as follows: "Random thoughts for Valentine's Day 2004. Today is a day invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap."
In case anyone out there wants to try his or her luck with hot peppers, here's the recipe I followed. I added a bit of garlic.