Chili is a tradition, a birthright even, in Texas. I remember my mom used to drive us out to the country, about an hour and a half outside of Plano, to her friends' Chili Cook Off Tournaments. Usually hosted at someone's trailer house and adjoining tool shed, surrounded by trees. We'd climb out of my mom's mini van, perplexed. We didn't have trailer parks in the suburbs. Saw about a million kids running around with BB Guns and jumping on a trampoline. We'd smile to one another and sprint, we didn't have a trampoline, either. The adults would crack open cold beers as they tended to their prized pots of chili simmering away. Come twilight, the chili was ready to eat. Surrounded by trees, dogs without leashes, and barefoot kids,everyone would grab a seat on a picnic table, lawn chair or the bed of a pickup truck to eat. See chili bring people together.
A few weeks ago my besties and I unwittingly participated in a Chili Cook Off held in a high rise apartment building in the middle of downtown Dallas. My friend lives in the apartments and as we were tromping along the 8th Floor to see her pad, we saw a commotion among her neighbors, going from floor to floor taste-testing chili cooked up by the various residents. This time the setting was more upscale, featuring lavish artwork on the walls and more frou-frou furniture scattered about. We were warned that the apartments weren't supposed to let non-residents in on the fun, but they would overlook it just this once. (Ah geeze) We tagged along tasting a little bowl of chili on each floor. Some residents added beer, buffalo meat, or my favorite brisket. Cornbread made with cheese were passed around. Mini margarita popsicles were made from condensed milk and margarita mix. Again, chili brings people together, even those that live in luxury.
I was craving some chili last night. I know Texans aren't supposed to complain but the weather took a nosedive from the high 70's to the low 40's within an afternoon. My allergies were back full force and one of my best friends found out she has cancer.
I didn't make anything fancy, just your regular chili from the spice packet in the grocery aisle. A pound of ground beef, a can of whole stewed tomatoes, and a can of kidney beans. The secret recipe of my dad's cornbread lost when he passed away but the Jiffy boxed mix worked just fine. I remember how my dad would take leftover cornbread and mash into a glass of warm milk for breakfast the next day. I don't know if kids know how to do that anymore. Make new meals from the leftovers.
The chili brought me closer to my memories. Sometimes, that's all we need to make a bad day just a little better.
What dish are you craving on bad days? Let me know in comments!