Cinnamon Girl

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

It was supposed to be an enjoyable afternoon of crafting. The 4 year old and I decided to make homemade play dough – as we so often do. The ingredients are few: water, salt, flour, cream of tartar and oil, with a touch of food coloring thrown in for fun.

The play dough making process goes a little something like this:

Me:  Ok, now pour in the salt. Careful – don’t touch the pan. The pan is hot. Don’t touch the pan!

The 4 year old: Ok mommy. I won’t touch it.

Me: Perfect, now pour in the flour. The pan is hot. Don’t touch the pan!

The 4 year old: I won’t touch the pan.

And on it goes. Until I burn my hand on the hot pan and my girl eats a handful of salt, hoping it might taste like sugar.

There are times when I look at the wise little person before me and see the mature grown up she will soon become. Then, there are times that send me hurtling head first into the imaginary corner of my mind where bluebirds sing, ladybugs dance and no one can hear me crying.

The thing is, on this day, I decided to add cinnamon to our play dough mixture. The holidays are coming and quite frankly, plain play dough smells of old feet and the sour breath of a dog we once owned.  

My daughter was all for it and helpfully shook the jar, releasing the pungent spice into the bowl while I kneaded the ingredients into a pile.

What happened next wasn’t pretty.

“I need water!”

My little girl jumped down from the step stool she had been standing on and ran to the sink.

“Did you eat more salt?” I questioned, searching frantically for a cup.

“No” she sobbed, “cinnamon.”

I ran to my daughter’s side with a cup of water and tried to comfort her as thoughts began to race through my head - fast and furious. Cinnamon is edible. It’s a food. People eat it. We eat it. It can’t be harmful. Could it be harmful? Is it harmful???!

“My throat is hurting!” she screamed as she tried to gulp down the water.

What the hell, cinnamon?

Then, it hit me. When I was a kid, I once ate a handful of peppercorns, thinking they were chocolate chips. As in - the apple doesn’t far from the tree. Also, I remembered the remedy for my pepper pain was milk.

I opened the fridge, grabbed the carton and poured.  Within seconds of ingesting the milk, cinnamon shot out of my girl like a frightened squirrel running from a pissed off crow.

It was far from poetic.

Geoff was out on a coffee run, but Jan was in the office so while trying to remain calm, I called her into the kitchen. She immediately paged Dr. Google and what she discovered was disturbing.  For one thing, as it happens, sucking in cinnamon has become somewhat of a party game with curious – no… idiotic adolescents.

I phoned Geoff who headed straight for home. Meanwhile, the poor kid was improving slightly, but was still experiencing waves of distress - partly from the discomfort, but also from the thought of additional cinnamon ejections. After all, this was only the second time in her life that food made it’s way out of her the wrong way around. The first involved the phrase “spitting spaghetti”. 

After calling Telehealth who transferred me to Poison Control, we sped our way to the emergency room, "just to be safe." Then, I burped. A lot. You see, I have a familial habit of belching when nervous. It's neither helpful, nor ladylike. Kind of like my 9th grade gym teacher.

By the time we arrived, things had calmed down enormously and after witnessing the casual gait of the doctor on call as he entered our room, I was fairly certain that everything would be all right. After a thorough heart, lung and throat inspection, he informed us that cinnamon is an irritant and should not be eaten dry.  Duly noted.

But - most of all, he told us my daughter was 100% fine.

We all left the hospital in a far better state than when we had arrived and on the way home, decided to stop off for fish & chips and fuel. Because that’s how we roll.

After the meal which included multiple belches and numerous assurances that no more cinnamon would try to escape, we left to fill our car with gasoline. With the rest of the family outside, I went to pay the bill. Inside, as a line formed behind me, the delicate, kind faced boy behind the counter looked at me earnestly and queried, “Do you have gas?”

“Yes.” I answered without skipping a beat. It was the truth, times two.

The two of us stared at one another for a moment. My left eyebrow went up - the mirror image of his. We smirked at the ground and said nothing more. It was just the levity I needed for what could have been a very heavy day.

The moral of this story is, keep all spices away from your children. Place them in a high cupboard. Do it now. And always supervise them closely when they assist with the cooking. Eating dry cinnamon can result in a sore throat and upset stomach  - which is bad enough - but inhaling it (or other spices) can be life threatening. So, don’t be lax. Also, try not to burp while in line paying for gas.

No, really.

This post has been edited and republished on Erica Ehm's Yummy Mummy Club with the title: The Serious Health Threat in your Spice Cupboard.

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