Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thoughts on Chili

     I cook chili because of my father. He imparted a great deal of wisdom upon me during his time on Earth. One of his finest nuggets was that if someone did something particularly bad, that person did it "like a man with a paper rectum."

RECTUM? Damn near killed 'em!
     He went to his grave never having adequately explained what that meant. He also told me that being able to make good chili was a very important skill. That was clearly defined for me. The base of his recipe was a simple 1:1 ratio for meat, tomato sauce and beans. 1 pound of meat, 1 28oz can tomato sauce, 1 can kidney beans. He'd normally drag out his cauldron and drop in five pounds of ground beef.  Then he'd work the magic. Onions, green peppers, and the seasonings. My lord, the seasonings. Nothing was off limits. At the very least, a tin of regular chili powder and a tin of hot chili powder were going in. Possibly two of each. I never really got a handle on what all he was throwing in there. It was just enough to watch him go. His favorite thing to add was something called "Desert Dust." It was nothing more than powdered jalapeno.

     When he threw in enough of whatever he wanted to throw in, he'd set it to simmer for a couple hours. Then we'd have a bowl. No cheese. No sour cream. He felt those things were for the weak. He would always serve a loaf of garlic bread on the side. The chili had heat and flavor. It was wonderful. "It's better the next day," he would tell us. He was right. A night in the fridge would take it to another level entirely. We'd eat on that pot of chili for days on end without getting tired of it. He never had a solid recipe for chili. He just had that base and sort of winged it. It was a little different each time, but it never varied too far from the base flavor.  Certain things were off limits in chili for my dad. Cinnamon and chocolate were two things he would never put in chili. If it was served over anything, it was elbow macaroni.

If you don't love chili, you're probably a Communist.

      I love making chili. Over the years my recipe has drifted away from my father's. I add chorizo, take out the pepper, use cumin and liquid smoke.  I play with a lot more seasoning than my father did.  I make it hotter or more mild depending on my audience. I've made it so hot it's caused migraines and one unconfirmed death. I make it because it is a comfort food. Mostly I make it because it reminds me of my dad.

Good times!

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