Spicing Up My Life

Nothing beats trying something new.  Leaving your comfort zone. Experiencing that irreplaceable first time thrill.  

Without much effort, a person can come up with new ideas leading to some first time excitement.  It doesn’t have to be sky diving or signing up for a tap class when you aren’t even able to clap a rhythm.  Sure, jumping out of an airplane at 15,000 feet would be exciting, but there are smaller everyday activities you can add to your usual (most likely mundane) routine.

I recently chose to “spice up my life” by way of making a batch of salsa, mostly due to my mother successfully pawning off seven hundred pounds of garden tomatoes.  

Scanning through recipes left me rather clueless:

“Seeding” tomatoes? That could take up to an hour per tomato! Cumin? What’s that? Ready in THREE hours!  Who has that kind of time?
After asking friends for recipes and suggestions, I finally sought out a pro’s advice.  A co-worker, who I imagine has a garden no smaller than a regulation-size basketball court, was willing to lend some advice.
“First,” she said, “peel the tomatoes. You know how to do that, right?”
(Blank stare.)  “Can’t I just chop ‘em up and throw um in?” 

Amazed at my stupidity, she patiently explained how to correctly peel tomatoes. 

“Next,” she said, “You need some peppers.  Do you have peppers?” 

Slightly humiliated by the fact that I lack an elite garden with enough peppers to make salsa for the entire state of North Dakota, I informed her a grocery store visit was in the near future. 

“Well, wear gloves when you work with the peppers.  Do you have gloves?” 

(Blank stare).  Clearly I know nothing about making salsa.

“You need to wear gloves. Make sure you wear gloves.” 

Unsure of why gloves were so important, I wasn’t about to ask. I already sounded like an amateur.
She listed everything else I should purchase: onions, limes… garlic. 

“You know how to peel garlic, right?”
(Blank stare). Peel garlic? Isn’t garlic a seasoning? Just twist off the cap and sprinkle it on, right? 
“Oh, if you don’t know how to do that… it’s a whole other process!!” She exclaimed, clearly losing her patience with my incredible lack of knowledge.
“I’ll figure it out!” I said, embarrassed that I hadn’t done more research. I was beginning to feel like an intern going through their first real world experience.
She instructed chopping up all the peppers with a food processor.

“Do you have a food processor?”
(Blank stare). Not sure what it is, but it sounds cool!
“I’ll buy one,” I replied. 

“Now, are you going to can these?”  She asked.
“Yup!” I said, liking the sound of that phrase.  I’d be canning salsa later.  How fun!
“Do you know how to can?”
(Blank stare).  I really wish she would stop asking questions.
Not able to take it anymore, she dropped her head onto her desk and looked back up with a you-can’t-be-serious-I-can’t-believe-this-girl look.
“Ok, well. Do you have a canner?”

“Yep!” I replied.  A canner?
While she explained how to utilize the canner, I came to the conclusion that I actually didn’t have a canner.  During her presentation of the specifics of the canning process, I decided I’d spoon the salsa into some jars and give them all away.  Besides, the chances of the first batch turning out well weren’t that great, so why would I keep massive amounts lying around?

“You have jars and lids?”

“Yes!” I proudly exclaimed. YAY! I got one right! Every dummy knows you need jars!

“Now, I don’t want you using mayonnaise jars for this. If you use that type of jar, you’ll find that…”

(Zone out).  Guess I don’t have the correct kind of jars. Sure am taking the bull by the horns…

This conversation was going terribly. Needing no cue to leave, I was ready to exit as soon as the instructions came to a close.

“Great! Well, thanks! I’ll let you know tomorrow how it goes!” I said, moving towards to the door.

“Oh! You’re taking the day off?” she said, impressed by my dedication.
Stopping in the doorway, I told her my plan.  “I am going to make it tonight…”
“Oh,” she said, eyes wide.  “This takes a while, you know…”
(Blank stare).  Need. Door. Now!
“Yeah… I’ll let you know how it goes.”

Wow. I didn’t set any records during that little escapade.  Her instructions were intimidating enough to re-think my entire salsa-making adventure.  Would Mom ever know if her precious tomatoes were tossed out with the trash this Friday? Since the thought of throwing away food gives me an overwhelming feeling of guilt, I couldn’t let Mom’s tomatoes rot. Something had to be done!
After three hours of chopping (didn’t buy a food processor) with my bare hands (forgot to buy gloves and figured they weren’t necessary), everything was in the pot boiling, the kitchen looked like a crime scene and I smelled like an overworked Mexican Village server.  Cleaning the juicy mess off of the floor, counter and front of my cabinets for the next five hours gave the special concoction time to boil for somewhere near the required amount of time. 

Tired of seeing, chopping, smelling and thinking tomatoes, I poured the salsa into a couple of jars before calling it a night. Debating whether to leave the grand tasting for another night, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to know whether the last couple hours had been spent on something not even a dog would lap up off the floor.

As I crawled into bed, the reason for wearing gloves hit me like a blazin’ buffalo wing. My hands were on fire!

Looking on the bright side, at least I can say I had a really hot night.

Shootin’ the Wit is a weekly column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

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