Our Chilean dinner last night, celebrating the release of the 33 miners who were trapped underground for so long, was delicious. I meant to take some photos of the food, but...I was a little distracted.
The meal prep didn't start well. I had intended to clean the kitchen before I started, since it was scattered with several abandoned pots and pans from days previous. The kitchen was also piled with bags of tomatoes and peppers, picked the day before from the garden that just keeps on giving. Oops. I forgot to get in there and clean it before I needed to start dinner. If you've seen my tiny cockpit of a kitchen, you can imagine the chaos that ensued when I tried to prepare a special meal in there. It was a little crazy. Claustrophobics need not apply. In fact, they shouldn't even try to imagine.
So, I was trying to work quickly at preparing the meat pie I'd chosen for our simple mining family-style fare, and trying to clean the kitchen at the same time, making myself room as I needed it. I gave up on cutting vegetables in the kitchen--there was just no space for that--so I was running back and forth between the kitchen cave and the cutting board on the dining room table.
I should have seen it coming. It was just too crowded and chaotic. I reached for the can of corn that I'd previously opened with the can opener. I couldn't see that it was wedged tightly in place, held there by several other things that had been crowded in around it. So when I tried to quickly grab the can, it didn't move so my hand slipped back up and away. You know, dear reader, how sharp the edges of open can lids are. So do I. And I have the bandages to prove it. The lid sliced the tip of my right forefinger, a nice clean slice that bled profusely, right from the start.
I gave a little gasp and Andy called out from the other room, "Are you ok?"
"No, not really," I squeaked.
He came with a band-aid, looked at the finger and went back to get gauze instead. With direct pressure, I was finally able to get it to slow down enough to clean it up and let Andy get it bandaged. The meal prep had to continue, however, and with Andy's help, it did. "Oh, that timer is for the casserole. Can you get that out and reset the timer for another 30 minutes for the cake? No, actually, the casserole doesn't look done. Put that back in." Fortunately, as soon as he'd made my wound secure so I wouldn't be dripping all over things, I was able to go on without him. There wasn't room for both of us in that kitchen anyway. Heck, there wasn't even room for me.
Cutting up the remaining vegetables for the spicy corn and tomato and bell pepper salad was a challenge with a big clunky bandage on my knife-holding hand, but I managed to do it just fine (better than I am doing with a keyboard right now, at least). I was happy to have another use for some garden veggies and decided to dice up a hot pepper to put in the salad, too, just for a little extra zip. My family likes zip.
I reached into my bag of freshly picked (not pickled) peppers and looked for a good one. This is always a bit of a challenge because we...uh...kind of forgot to label the peppers when we planted them in the garden. Some are easily recognizable by their shape and color, but there are many peppers that we have been unable to recognize. Choosing one is risky. We have turned it into a game that we call Pepper Roulette. I saw peppers that I recognized as jalapenos and skipped over them. I was feeling lucky. I picked a long, waxy attractive pepper and diced it up, seeds and all, and dumped it into my salad without even sampling it.
I was busy getting the table cleared off when I made my second major mistake. I felt a little crusty bit of something in the corner of my eye and reached for it with my forefinger--the unbandaged one. In my hasty movements, however, as I rushed to get things done so that the meal could be served hot, I missed the corner of my eye and jabbed my finger directly into my eyeball. Don't you hate it when you poke yourself in the eye? Don't you REALLY hate it when you poke yourself in the eye with a finger that was just used to chop a pepper that was apparently much hotter than should be legal in any country?
The pain started immediately--not from the poke, but from the pepper. I couldn't open the eye. It burned like nothing I've ever felt before--like a weapon of some sort. But this was a special meal, a celebration meal, and I was determined to get it on the table, so I kept working--a one-eyed, one-fingered, flying Chilean meal preparer. The burning in my eye continued to get worse, as any self-respecting pepper oil does. My eye began to water uncontrollably. I squinted out of my good eye and began to shout orders to my husband and children about what needed to happen yet as I stumbled back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room.
"Whose CD case is still on the table? I need those scraps of paper thrown away!"
I bumped into people and furniture at every turn, unable to see where I was going through the burning pain.
"Andy, can you please open the bottle of wine? Ellie, I need you to pour beverages--no, just choose a beverage for yourself because the adults are having wine and your brother is drinking the rest of his Arizona tea. Are there any glasses on the table yet? I can't see them."
I couldn't see much of anything, but still I scurried around furiously to get the meal on, tears streaming down my face. I remembered a reality TV show I'd seen with my husband and son recently. It followed a military unit that was getting some special forces training and had to learn about chemical warfare. They were exposed to some terrible gas that made them gag and choke and go temporarily blind, but they were not allowed to stop following their orders. They had to pick up their "wounded" comrades and carry them to the top of a steep hill. I remembered their commanding officers yelling at them to keep going as they stumbled and retched. It was a terrible scene to watch, but they did it. They made it to the top. I would make it, too. We would sit down and join hands around that celebration meal and Andy would pray and we would raise our glasses and toast the miners and the rescuers and we would enjoy that meal IF IT KILLED US!
The only thing that I needed to do yet was slice up the Chilean oranges to garnish the plates. I squinted at the oranges and began to slice, Cyclops style, with my gimpy hand. But Cyclops shouldn't slice oranges, whether his hand is bandaged or not. Being newly one-eyed, I realized quickly that I had absolutely no depth perception. I made the wise choice to call Andy in to slice the oranges for me.
I called everyone to the table and sat down. My finger throbbed and the burning pepper oil in my eye had begun to leak out by way of my tears, and was now dripping down the side of my face. It felt as if someone were holding a candle to my cheek. No matter. I reached my hands to the loved ones on either side of me and the celebration began with prayer.
When the Amen had finished echoing around the table, we called out the chant we'd heard again and again as we watched each miner surface:
LOS MINEROS DE CHILE!
We raised our glasses--Dad, Andy and I with our goblets of mellow Chilean wine, Ellie with her water and Tano with his leftover Arizona raspberry tea--and toasted the miners, their families, and the rescuers.
With a final shout of "Viva, Chile!" we dug into the dinner for which I'd literally given my blood, sweat and tears.
It was delicious.
In my medically induced clumsiness (the 13.5% by volume could have helped, too), I managed to knock over my wine glass into the spicy veggie salad at one point, but it was ok. My wine was nearly empty and so was the salad bowl. No harm, no foul.
My sliced finger got me out of kitchen clean-up, for which I was quite grateful, and I went straight to the sofa and closed my eyes for a little nap. When I awoke, I felt much better all around.
So anyway, that's why I don't have any photos of the yummy dinner and dessert to share with you. Maybe next time.