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Friday, January 29, 2016

Chili Nights

It's Friday afternoon, and I'm sitting in Jason's Deli waiting for Elaine.  We get together once a month for dinner, and tonight's the night.  I had some other things to do after work, so decided to stay in town, rather than driving home, and then back down here.  So I'm doing a little catch-up work while I wait.  It smells so good in here, and it is a true test of willpower not to go ahead and fix my plate.  I'm sure that I could graze from now until she arrives in a couple of hours. Management probably wouldn't appreciate it, though, if I ate for two hours before dinner time, and kept on eating once she gets here.  There's only one electrical outlet in the entire joint, and it's where the little kiosk thing is that allows you to cut through the line if you're only ordering salads and drinks.  And it's right by the bar where the food is prepared. #torture.  I asked the nice lady if I could go ahead and pay for my dinner and drink, and just wait about dinner.  An odd request, for sure, but, I'm really thirsty, and wanted a drink while I wait.  And since I never carry cash (right Richard Russell?) I needed to use my debit card.  I guess I have an honest face, because the lady gave me a glass and told me I could go ahead and get my drink.  It's the little things that make me happy!!!  Did I mention that it smells really good in here? Lots of food-food-smells.  Including a big vat of freshly made chili that I see (and smell) behind the bar.  

Here's the latest article from the Barrow Journal.  The story will be familiar to some of you, but for others, this may be your first exposure to my culinary adventures.  The incident is a little less painful for me to remember, as I sit here surrounded by the aroma of freshly cooked food... and chili...


Chili Nights

Fewer things please my palate than a steaming-hot bowl of chili on a cold night.  Topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and saltines on the side, with a giant glass of Diet Coke.  Almost heaven. 

It was a cold winter weekend in the late 90s, when I remembered that it was my turn to feed the kiddos at the Sunday night gathering at church.  My mom offered to do the cooking for me, but after politely thanking her and declining, I forged ahead with my giant pot of chili.  Tons of ground beef, spices, beans, onions (and tears) later, I finally had a nice, giant pot of chili simmering on the stove.  Only problem, it was around 2:00 a.m. before it was done.  Too hot to put in the fridge, and too long to leave sitting out.  The crock-pot theory seemed reasonable, so I turned the stove down to the lowest setting, and put my tired self to bed.  The next morning it smelled delicious!!  I left the stove on while we went to church, figuring I had backed myself into a culinary corner that would require simmering it all afternoon in order to be hot and fresh for the 4:00 feast. 

Something happened while I was at church.  It is the dangdest thing, and I still have no idea what happened.  When we walked in from church around 12:30, the house smelled horrible.  Like a six-month-old litter box in a very damp room.  I removed the lid to find a heinous, frothy substance floating on top. After stirring, I took a bite – which made me gag and immediately spit it out.  Must have been some bad tomatoes or something – but it was a giant, simmering pot of toxic waste.  By now it was 1:00, and I had three hours to come up with something to feed the masses.  Sadly, they had to settle for corn dogs, which my own daughter despises, and wouldn’t eat. 

I had to remove the hot mess from the house, so I set the pot out in the back yard, thinking maybe the neighborhood dogs would relieve me of the nastiness.  Somewhere around, oh, I’d say… March, I remembered the pot, and went outside to retrieve it.  To my surprise, the chili was still there.  Not only that, it had rained and was filled to the top with the rain water, and there were dead creatures floating about in the water.  I checked to make sure I had left my fence gates open to allow the dogs to dine.  Indeed, they were open.  Hmmm.  I guess the dogs saw the dead bugs floating inside and decided it wasn’t safe for canine consumption, either.   Then around, oh, I think it was April, I made a mental note to myself that I must check the pot again, and bring it inside.  But we know how mental notes work. 

One afternoon in….. probably May…. I was sitting at my desk working, when suddenly I heard Whitney come rushing into the house gagging and screaming, “Get it off… get it OFFFF!!!”  Horrified, I was afraid there was a snake, or spider, or space aliens (oh, those screams!) attacking her.  Once she got to me, I realized that she had big globs of the radioactive chili on her shirt.  Holes had starting to form in the shirt, and it was disintegrating before my eyes.  Puffs of smoke were filling the room.   She was gagging and screaming.  We were both gagging.  The smell was akin to what I imagine a forensic crime scene might be. 

Seems she had been in the yard on her bike, and had accidentally disturbed the pot, causing the “chili” to slosh up onto her shirt.  Of course, the shirt had to be incinerated, and she took the longest shower of her life.  We carefully examined her delicate skin to be sure she hadn’t suffered any burns or skin deterioration.  Thankfully, she suffered no skin trauma. 

It became very clear to me that the neighborhood animals and Mother Nature were not going to dispose of the mess for me, and I would have to take care of the disaster myself.  I donned my hazmat suit, protective eyewear, and gloves, and set about the cleanup/decontamination project.  The pot was carefully placed into my wheelbarrow, and very, very slowly, was transported to the ravine that ran at the back of my property.  When the pot hit the bottom, a large cloud of glowing, green vapor arose from the ravine, and before my eyes, the vegetation started to wither and die.  Nearby trees bent over and touched the ground.  Birds flying overhead suddenly fell from the sky.  Little critters were scrambling in all directions, trying to flee their Hiroshima.  Back in my yard, the grass where the pot had stood was gone.  My spring flowers had failed to bloom.  But at least the weapon of mass destruction had been relocated to another area on the property. 

Several years later, I sold that house and moved back to Statham.  My parents were helping me dispose of dirt from old flower pots, dead plants, and we were throwing the debris down into the denuded ravine.  Suddenly, my mom turns to my dad and says, “Look, hun, there’s a POT down in the gully!  Go down there and get it, and we’ll clean it up for Cat!!”  Umm.  No, thanks, mom!!!!!

Indeed, nothing tastes better on a cold winter evening than a nice bowl of hot chili.   Strangely enough, though, everyone seems previously engaged whenever I invite them over to eat some delicious homemade chili!!  

Do you have a cooking disaster story?  I’d love to hear it!!  E-mail me at bencath@aol.com to share yours!! And maybe I’ll e-mail you back with another of mine, because, unfortunately, I have quite a few to share…


Man.  I hope Elaine isn't running late today!  I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to wait....

Happy Weekend, everyone!!!  

1 comment:

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