This is a cautionary tale for all of those husbands who complain to their wives that their chili ain’t spicy enough. Watch what you ask for when it involves hot sauce because it could land you a one-night stay at the hospital. The circumstances surrounding the event are still, and always will remain blurry, but doctors attribute what happened to my darling husband to too much hot sauce.
It was a cold February evening, and I had prepared a batch of chili. Kept warm on the stovetop, it filled the kitchen with humming smells of cumin, sweet chili spices, and tomato. This pot in particular, was completely free of any hot spices because I wanted my 15-month-old son Noah to be able to eat with us. I also happened to be pregnant with our second son, and somehow could not tolerate anything spicy during that time.
Feeling heavy and tired, I just wanted to sit down to a nice, mild, and heartwarming bowlful of chili. So, I serve my son, and my husband Marc their supper, and just as I'm about to sit down to my own, my husband comments that the chili tastes different. He asks, “Is this a new recipe?”, to which I answer that no, it’s not and that I just omitted hot peppers for Noah’s sake. Apparently disappointed, he looks down at his bowl with a discontented pout. “It tastes kind of bland…”, he adds.
Exhausted, hormonal, and having just spent the last hours cleaning and cooking, I am not geared with the patience required to deal with my husband’s [albeit very rare] fussiness. My first thought goes to the Sriracha hot sauce sitting the fridge door. This would be an easy fix, a perfect compromise for a hubby who likes his chili hot. So I offer, “I can add some hot sauce to your chili, if you want.” With a doubtful frown, he wonders if it will be as good. He asks if it will taste the same as when I just make the regular recipe. He wants to make sure it will at least give enough kick to my bland batch to be somewhat enjoyable. “Yes, dear. It’ll taste just fine”. I grab his bowl, and start adding the hot sauce by a few squirts at a time. And I add a bit more. And a bit more. There. That should taste like a typical spicy chili that Marc seems to crave.
Ticked off from Hubby’s whining, I firmly plant his bowl chili in front of him, and huffing and puffing, I finally I sit down to mine. As I enjoy my first spoonful, Marc dearest lets out a, “Whoa! This is pretty spicy! How much hot sauce did you put in there??” Argh! God he’s annoying tonight, I think to myself. “Well then, go make yourself another bowl if you don’t like it!”, I snap back. I’m close to blowing up by now, and he must have felt it because he decides to lay low, and quietly eat his chili.
A couple hours pass. Noah is now sound asleep in his crib. I’m watching television, and for once in the day, I’m trying to relax. But my husband has not been feeling well since the supper. In fact, for the last hour he’s been complaining of digestive aches. And then it hits him. Gripping stomach pains make him run to the bathroom. In no time, he's on hands and knees, panting, and making horrible sounds (imagine what a man in labor would sound like). He throws up all contents of his stomach, half of it on the floor (for me to clean, of course).
The pain he’s in is becoming worrisome. Now, he’s screaming. Yes, actually screaming – like he’s being murdered. He’s holding his abdomen as if his intestines were trying to escape his body. He says he’s never felt such pain before (call me evil, but every time a man says that, I just feel like saying, "Try delivering naturally and then, tell me about pain... Sorry post-labor bitterness talking here). After fifteen minutes of agony, he seems to think his life is coming to an end because he starts giving his farewells. “Te-te-tel-ll Noah I lo..lo-ove him… Know that I a-a-a-always loved youuu! I’m…I’m dying babe! I’m dyyyyiiiinnngg!”
Whoa. Wait a minute here! First you criticize my chili for half an hour, and now you have the nerve of dying on me while I’m with child???!!! Oh hell no! “Stop that right now!!”, I tell him. “First of all, stop panicking! (I have a bad habit of always using that expression, and it drives him crazy). Secondly, I forbid you to leave me alone pregnant, and with a toddler (I should’ve reminded him that we also have two Great Danes to take care of…) So you are NOT ALLOWED to die!” But now, he starts to sob. Oh my.
This situation just went from comical to grave. Marc is not a man of many tears. And if he cries, it’s bad news. Real bad news. All of a sudden, our tiny bathroom has become the center of a terrible drama. Here I am, crying with my husband – actually bawling – begging him to breathe, calm down, and talk to me. But nothing is helping. “Call my Mo-o-m…. C-c-a-all 911”. He can barely talk anymore, and he is pallid, cold sweat dripping down his face. So I make a run for the phone, and make the calls. In a few short minutes, my mother-in-law is at the house. She finds her son contorting himself on floor, crippled with pain. As she is trying to calm him down, the paramedics arrive. The dogs bark wildly, and I rush to send them outside so that the medics can go to my poor hubby’s rescue. This is a bad dream, a nightmare happening in real time. Is my husband dying? Panick is taking over me, but I try to stay focused and hope it's nothing serious.
Strangely amid all this noise and chaos of dogs howling, Marc wailing, Mother-in-law shouting, me bawling, Noah remains sound asleep...
So it is decided that Marc’s mother will accompany him in the ambulance while I stay at home with Noah. It’s not until three hours later that I get a phone call from my mother-in-law telling me that at last, Marc seems in less pain. He has been seen by a doctor almost immediately upon arriving at the hospital, and has even passed an ultrasound for his intestines. Finally, for lack of finding anything conclusive, he has been given a sedative and some type of pain killer and appears more serene. I conclude that they basically knocked him out for lack of any better idea. Either way, this is relieving news and Mother-in-law insists to come stay the night at our place in case I may need her help.
First thing in the morning, I drive to the hospital. My mother-in-law has offered to stay with Noah a couple hours so that I can go visit my darling husband. When I get there, I find Marc sitting up in his bed, and thankfully, looking a lot better. He tells me the pain is almost all gone though he still feels a bit queasy. I notice an intravenous machine, and Marc explains that they had to rehydrate him with an intravenous solution throughout the night. Poor, poor hubby. I feel so badly for what has happened to him. But could have caused this?
As we’re talking, a doctor comes around Marc’s bed. A young exhuberant fellow, this doctor seems in pretty high spirits. He greets us good morning, and gets straight to the point. “The results of the ultrasound, and blood work all came back normal.” He goes on to explain that nothing abnormal was noted throughout his observational stay either. And just then, with quirky smile, this young fellow of a doctor looks straight at me and says, “I hear that Mr. Henrichon had a pretty spicy chili for dinner last night?” Huh! I gasp. Actually, I forget breathing while half laughing, the doctor tells me that Marc could have had a bad case of food poisoning over too much hot sauce. “No more chili for a while, ok Miss?”
My eyes leap out of their sockets. My jaw drops to my pregnant belly. How dare this doctor accuse me of poisoning the love of my life, my better half, my partner in crime! I beg to differ mister Doctor! But before I say anything, I notice Marc looking at me with a little smile that seems to say, it’s okay babe, you're all forgiven. Though I vehemently protest this nonsensical accusation, I smile back at the doctor and keep my convictions for later when Marc and I will be in the car. Which is where we find ourselves ten minutes later debating over the quantity of sauce I poured, and why did he eat it all if it was so spicy anyway.
In a million years, I never would have thought of harming my husband with hot sauce. But needless to say, it was a long, long while before I made another batch of chili. I did end up making some again months later, but whether it was because of that ill-fated dinner, or a brand new appreciation for milder stews, but I have yet to hear any complaints from my husband in the spiciness [or lack thereof] of my chilis.