To herald the upcoming release of my third novel, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia—I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. Olivia, the lead in Driving in Neutral doesn’t think there’s much to be afraid of in life, but I know what scares me. I just never thought I’d find a new terror to rock my world– until this past Saturday.
During a weekend getaway with my Big Bearded Sicilian husband, Dr Shrinkee, I developed a phobia I never knew existed: Capsicumannuumphobia.
There’s nothing Dr Shrinkee and I enjoy more than a good Indian Curry. I quite like food with complex flavours, a blend of spices, and a good kick of chiles. Over the years we’ve been together, Dr Shrinkee’s palate has found its way to enjoying chiles too, although typically on a milder plane of heat than mine, which means we compromise on the level of hotness. We ordered a Southern Indian Chettinad and asked for it to be prepared mild-medium.
The saucy dish arrived, along with rice and naan. I dug in straight away and found the Chettinad to be a little too cinnamon and turmeric heavy, and was about to comment, but I waited for to Dr Shrinkee to take a bite. He did and, immediately, his face turned white.
Now, a white face is an odd thing for a Sicilian with an olive complexion. My initial thought was that my husband was choking on Chettinad, and I steeled myself and made ready to hammer blows between his shoulder blades to dislodge the cardamom pod that certainly blocked his airway. But then I noticed pools of moisture beneath his dark eyes, which were round and filled with enough tears to make Niagara Falls look like a dripping faucet. His head was soaked, his scalp shone though his short-cropped hair. Stricken, unable to speak, he reached for his glass of water. First aid training kicked in again and I shoved a hunk of plain Naan into his hand and signaled the waiter because I knew Dr Shrinkee has spooned HELL INTO HIS MOUTH and hell had traveled down his throat, and into his stomach.
First I ordered raita, yoghurt with shredded cucumber, to cool down his agony and stop his profuse, waterfall overheating. Then, when 2 serves of raita didn’t help, I asked for some sweet curd, which is exactly what it sounds like. Two spoons of the sweet, milk curd and Dr Shrinkee had been pulled from the fiery depths of Hades.
Twenty minutes later, he was happily eating a Chocolate Churro.
Thank YOU, Baby Jesus.
The thing is, as a result of watching him suffer, I have this new-found Capsicumannuumphobia, this fear of chiles. While I am perfectly at ease to chew on jalapeños and chopped up chiles, I am now anxious that the next time we have an Indian Curry it will be too hot for him—even if we ordered it mild.
You can now pre-order Driving in Neutral here!