Death Dust

“It tastes like pureed fire ants,” I said, dropping the pizza slice I had been trying to force myself to eat. “Just throw it away. You don’t have to eat it to make me feel better.”

He blinked, not unlike a deer looking into a fast approaching set of headlights. If he stayed still long enough would the car not see him? 

“Are you sure?” He was understandably hesitant. Who could blame him? Before him sat his new 20-something wife who had just spent hours in the kitchen working on a homemade pizza with a made from scratch sauce recipe that had gone horribly wrong. The look of doubt on his face when I told him he was off the hook told me he was pretty sure he had signed something legally obligating himself to pretending to like anything I set down in front of him…at least until I gained 10 pounds and the pressure was off. 

“Yes, I’m sure,” I said. I refused to let myself cry. Just because I had baked a pie so God-awful that I couldn’t even swallow a bite without wanting to vomit didn’t mean I couldn’t hold on to a bit of dignity, right? “It sucks. Just throw it away.”

He didn’t have to be asked a third time. The garbage disposal was erasing any remnants of the nightmare I had prepared and the plates washed before I could wipe away the tear that was dangling from my bottom lashes. Instead of breaking into hysterics, I threw back a glass of wine and poured another.

Seeing me visibly relaxed, my husband decided it was safe to speak. Specifically, he wanted to know what the hell had happened in the kitchen. I wasn’t in the running for my own cooking show based on my culinary talents, but I knew how to follow a recipe. 

I leaned back against the kitchen counter to think where I had gone wrong while sipping my wine. I compared my shopping list against the ingredients listed in the recipe. I went over my steps and the recipe directions. It all checked out.


“This is probably what did it,” I squeaked out, realizing my mistake.

“This” was my mother-in-law’s homemade dehydrated habanero peppers, more affectionately known as Death Dust. A little goes a long way in a stockpot full of chili and a lot makes a single batch of pizza sauce taste like, well, pureed fire ants.

“How much did you use?” He asked. “You know you’re only supposed to throw a pinch of that stuff into anything if you want to add some heat, right? A pinch.

He demonstrated for effect.

“Well, I started with a pinch. Then I thought a inch was for pansies so I added more,” my voice breaking. “And now I’m a horrible failure and can’t cook and please don’t tell anyone about this ever because Oh My God did that pizza taste like…like…”

“Pureed fire ants?”  What a good husband. Thanks for reminding me. 

“Yeah, that.”

He laughed. I cried. 

And then we called for take out.

Pauline M. Campos is a former journalist-turned-stay-at-home-mom to Buttercup. She blogs at Aspiring Mama (Parental Advisory: Occasional F-Bombs Dropped) and can be found on Twitter as @aspiringmama. She has written a book and is currently looking for an agent in the hopes of convincing her mother-in-law that writing in her pajamas  is, in fact, an actual job.


  1. I loved this! Thanks for the morning giggle.

  2. Thanks, Kim! I need to get a T-shirt made that says, "This is Why I Write Non-Fiction"

  3. Love this. I once made homemade peach cobbler for my husband... but mixed up "tsp" and "TBSP" and put 2 whole TBSP of baking powder into the dough. It tasted like chalk cobbler. Sad. And, yes, writing in your pajamas is, in fact, an actual job. I know this cause I do it. Actually, I wear a regular shirt in case someone calls me on Skype but leave my PJ bottoms on all day.


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