catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 4 :: 2014.02.21 — 2014.03.06


There’s something comforting about chopping!

The local TV weatherman predicted nine inches while the National Weather Service guestimated up to 18 inches in that dark blue swath stretching from the southern border of Pennsylvania right over our county on its way into New York state…and that’s all it took.  There’s something about the idea of being snowed in that triggers all kinds of responses: the usual assurance that we have bread and milk and eggs and orange juice, but something else happens.

Immediately, I get that caged-in feeling. Ordinary chores don’t satisfy that need for accomplishment, that need to be busy, to somehow do something extra to take care of my family, now down to the two of us.  But it is no different now than it was when the house rang with the laughter and music of little kids and then teenagers, and then college kids and their friends.  

And I find myself driven to make soup.  Will it be minestrone, or corn chowder or Tuscan bean or potato soup, or maybe chili?  Plain old chili!  But when you make chili, you have to get out the cutting board and the good knife to chop vegetables — to chop onions through the tears running down my face, and to chop green and sometimes red peppers and, very carefully, to chop garlic and celery.  There is bacon to chop and fry up first, to render natural fat to brown the vegetables in and the ground beef or turkey or some combination all to soften nicely in the bacon fat.  Then there are seasonings to measure and sprinkle over the sautéed vegetables and meat, so the Mexican chili powder and cumin and oregano can bloom; I think that’s what Chef Michael says on The Chew.  Salt and pepper to taste, the recipe says, and a dollop of vinegar and a spoonful of sugar.  A spoonful of sugar never hurts anything, and it might add to the “complexity” of the flavors.

Then the stars of chili: a fat can of pureed tomatoes, the same can filled with water, and three cans of beans — kidney beans and black beans and maybe one of chili beans if there is one.  I stir it all together with my old wooden spoon, and the tension evaporates as the flavors blend and the chili bubbles tangy songs into the air.  After a of couple hours while all of those vegetables and meat and seasonings turn into flavorful chili, I stir up cornbread, from the recipe on the back of the box, the same one I have been making for years, simple and always the perfect accompaniment.

We may be snowed in.  The power might even go out.  But it will be okay.  We can huddle in front of the fireplace if we have to, blankets around our shoulders, and we have chili and cornbread, and all will be well with the world.

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