Some notes on life and chili


I have been really lax about updating Beyond Bread and Butter. The truth is I ran out of steam last fall when my mom passed away. I know writer’s block is basically a myth, but every time I’ve tried to sit down and write something about a local restaurant, all I can think to say is, “This was good,” or, “This was not so good.” Not good reading to be sure.

I am not sure what else to say about it other than I think I might change direction here a little bit. I might still do restaurant reviews periodically, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about personal cooking projects. Mostly chili.

I’ve been thinking about chili for a lot of reasons. In my hometown, my dad’s chili is a legend. It is something he honed and perfected over a number of years, only to find that the real secret ingredient was my mom being the one to make it.

My mom’s passing has really redefined our family dynamics. As I ask myself, “What is chili?” I am also asking myself, “What makes a family?” It probably comes as no surprise that my family communicated affection with food. Chili was made for family gatherings and my dad’s local union meetings. My mom would make my favorite, extremely not authentic, enchiladas whenever I would come home to visit. My grandma makes her beloved sugar cookie cutouts for everyone for Christmas every year. Therefore I find myself trying to feed the people I care about.

Last fall I took a promotion at my company and now manage a team of 11 people. We’ve had a rough but fruitful year, thanks in no small part to their hard work and dedication. So I feed them. When times were especially tough, there would be weekly doughnuts and other snacks. This fall, I made my dad’s chili for them. Meat, beans, and my hopes that they know how much they are appreciated.

KT chili
Here’s the recipe, in all its splattered glory. My favorite part is where Dad says to serve it with a salad. The man has never eaten salad in his life.

The chili itself is what I would consider classic. This is the Midwest, we use beans (come at me, Texans). It doesn’t skimp on the cumin. It’s thick and hearty and just the right amount of spicy…if you don’t live in Minnesota like I do now. Even so, my team seemed to enjoy it. I think. I hope. Without getting to weird about it, I hope they felt like I treated them like family. I certainly fed them like family.

For this winter, I’ve decided to make it a project to cook a lot of chili and develop my own signature recipe. My own family is shifting, and the time seems right to test recipes and figure out what I want and what I like and what I want to feed to others that I care about.

My plan is to post about my trials here, as well as the odd restaurant review. But, as the infinitely wise @horse_ebooks once said, “Everything happens so much.”


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