I have a thing with chili. I love to make it in the fall and winter but never make or eat it in the summer. In the spring, a frozen portion may find its way into my lunch bag, but for me chili is seasonal—in a way that makes sense, I think. Which implies that I know someone with food season rules that don’t make as much sense. In fact, my brother-in-law Jim thinks soup is seasonal (winter food) but will only eat clam chowder, and only in the summer. And then there’s Amy. Her rules are not seasonal, per se, but she has a list of foods that are not Amy-approved that I can’t figure out. Miss Foodie McFoodenstein, who was just a finalist in a recipe contest, won’t eat mushrooms, or fish. She’d probably eat offal before eating squash. But I digress. (Which I imagine you are beginning to see is common with me. I may circle around the airport a few times, but I will land the plane. I promise.)
I didn’t grow up eating chili, and I can’t remember when I decided I liked it, but I do remember being in search of the ultimate chili recipe when I lived in Boston. I tried recipes, combined recipes, used some elements from different recipes, tried those out, then tweaked them and ultimately came up with the recipe I use today. Which I continue to tweak. I make it with ground beef and onion and garlic and beans and crushed tomatoes, seasoned with chili powder and cumin and garlic powder. It’s not quite Cincinnati chili, but it’s not Texas chili either. Because it has beans, it’s not chili con carne. I guess it’s just my own concoction, which always gets great reviews.
I think chili for me is the equivalent of my mother’s chicken soup, which in Polish we call rosół. When I make chili I am my mother’s daughter. Food is love. I make it in a big pot and share it. I always have Jodi and Mandy over for chili in the fall and send them home with the leftovers, and I usually have my friend Kim over for some. Amy gets it for lunch (it is Amy-approved), and a batch usually makes it to a Patriots tailgate. Sometimes I bring some to my parents, and my sisters. Yesterday I brought some for Erika and Juli to try. If there’s any left, I’ll freeze it in portions for lunch or dinner in a pinch. But I’d be just as happy to give it all away then to keep some for myself just in case. Happier, in fact.
Like my mother’s rosół, I secretly hope that—even when I share the recipe—people can’t replicate it, that there’s just that something about my chili that makes it better and worth waiting for me to share it again.