a chilli story

If yummy food is the most vital ingredient of my living then chilli is the most vital ingredient of that food. We, as a family have reduced everything from oil to sugar to salt for health reasons but the quantum of chilli always seems to follow an upward trend. So much so that we stopped buying powdered chilli completely (so as to reduce the intake of its most common adulterant, brick powder and maybe red dye) and started getting dried chillies pounded in our local mill instead.
After all you live but once.
A few days while shopping I came across a new variety of dried red chilli called Mankatti chilli. I’ve been a patron of the bright-red coloured Salem chilli – but this seemed alluring – not for its appearance for it was  more shrivelled and so less pretty than our staple chilli – the prime mover was its price which was atleast 25 % less (which is a good deal in these inflationary times).
My rule of thumb stated that the more shrivelled the chilli the “blander” it is ( the example being the Kashmiri chilli which is the other commonly available chilli here).
But that was proven wrong with the Rasam ( a spicy tamarind-tomato-lentil hybrid south Indian soup) M prepared for the night. To get that extra spicy special-effect I usually squish out all of guts of each chilli bulb from the curry and mix it back into the curry so that only the red powerless shell gets chucked ( that is what “value for money” means for me) – except that with this default ritual on the Mankatti chilly my tongue was set ablaze – I had to abort the Rasam and rinse mouth a couple of times and then chew an éclair to quench the fire. But if you thought it was done – then wait – the defecation of this chilly is more fiery than ingestion and lots more fun. Reminds me of Tom & Jerry with Tom’s derrière set on fire by Jerry.
So I realised (the hard way) that Mankatti must be a place in Andhra Pradesh ( the Indian state “famous” for its hot peppers).
The next day my 4 year old son also followed my footsteps. He has a habit of imagining everything as a toy car especially if it is a bright colored object that fits into his tiny hand. So apparently he was playing car which the (un-squished) Mankatti chillies from his mother’s plate when one of them accidentally squirted, and straight into the eye. Bingo.
Being away at office I could not watch the fun that followed but I could well imagine a strenuous wailing session interspersed with “eyes are burning” ( one of the first sentences taught by his mother to indicate soap in eyes while washing face) blaring for an hour before tiring him to sleep.
Now he’s added a new item to his “to be wary of” list.
But I’ve gotten used to it – my spice-threshold (in Scoville units) seems to have increased a notch ( I wonder if and how I’ll go back to Salem chilli).
And also the life after getting diagnosed for peptic ulcer ( my mother already has it so I’m a prime candidate). So I’m trying to already finish my quota of spice before its too late.
Its said that spice hijacks the original taste of all the food it touches – I don’t feel so.
For me a meal is incomplete if it doesn’t leave you with watery nose, eyes and mouth.