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Death by General Tso

My tongue needs a bandaid. And some burn cream. Perhaps a four hour ice bath would be useful as well. Do they make bandaids for lips? Because I could use a sterile covering over them too. Powerful analgesics, the kind you can only get with a prescription from a doctor, would not be out of the question either. I'd prefer that they be applied directly on my lips, tongue, and oh heck, I'll just gargle with it.

You see, tonight I nearly met an untimely death by Chinese food. General Tso's Chicken to be exact. It started out innocently enough. My husband, children and I went out to dinner with my father, my sister and her children, twelve of us altogether. Thankfully there were enough people there to make sure my agony did not go unnoticed. The only thing that would have made it all more bearable would have been if they had managed to catch my writhing on video for later replays at family reunions.

I love Chinese food, and I've even eaten General Tso's chicken in the past without needing medical attention. Tonight was not such an event.

I'd finished my chicken and then noticed a piece of chicken that I'd missed off to the side on my plate. At least I thought it was a piece of harmless, tasty chicken. I picked it up and popped it into my mouth, grazing my lips with the napalm like material. The second it hit my tongue, I spit it out. Yes, spit. Right out. On to my plate. Right in the middle of the restaurant. Surrounded by other patrons. Then the real fun began.

Searing, scalding, skin-scorching pain erupted below my nose. My mouth had disappeared and in it's place was a pyrotechnic display, worthy of any Chinese firework show put on for thousands of people. I'm not certain just how many people the restaurant held, but suffice it to say that what my family lacked in numbers, they more than made up for in noise as they mocked my pain.

I know you're supposed to stop drop and roll when you're on fire, but unfortunately I was physically unable to turn my mouth inside out and press it to the floor of the restaurant. So I did the next best thing. I shoveled in some bland white rice. It didn't help, so I spit it out. Yes, spit. Right out. Into a napkin, then I frantically searched for something else to quench the fire. Sweet and sour chicken? Nope, spit it out. Noodles? Uh uh. Into the napkin it went. Water? Yeah, that was like tossing H20 onto a grease fire. Now the unbearable pain had spread to my entire mouth and it felt like my lips had melted off.

“Stop doing that!” my father half-laughed half-yelled at me as I spewed out another non-fire-retardant morsel of food onto the table.

For the record, broccoli with beef, fried wantons, egg rolls, and breaded scallops will not help you in this situation. My first relief came when my husband shoved a giant bowl of vanilla pudding at me. I spooned half a gallon into my mouth and then rubbed some on my lips. The Hispanic family to our right were staring at me in morbid fascination, probably relieved that the pudding didn't get spit back out. Oh, blessed peace. Then I swallowed the pudding and the burning returned full force. More pudding. More lip covering. Ahhhh. Sweet. When I swallowed, there was more pain. Did I mention that my eyes were watering? I had the Niagara of tear ducts during this event. Each time the pudding went down, the pain increased and the more I cried.

My youngest daughter brought me a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Heaven! Sweet, icy, heaven. I ate two bowls of frozen bliss, holding most of it in my mouth for as long as humanly possible.

It took some time to beat down the flames, but beat them down I did. When the taste buds on my tongue come back, and after my swollen lips have healed, I plan on finding that General Tso and giving him a piece of my mind. Then I'll start marketing lip bandaids filled with vanilla pudding for other victims.

This column was originally published in several papers in 2007 and is being posted here today for Jeri Lynn and Teresa Pyper


  1. sorry to hear that friend.
    but your story telling has me in stitches!
    {that was the point right?} :)
    luv ya

  2. Anonymous2:59 AM

    Beer is the best medicine.

    Alcohol is a solvent, and can wash away a lot of the resin that causes the pain. If it is cold, then the cooling effect can produce immediate results. (Tequila works even better)


  3. It's not aich-twenty, but aich-two-oh



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