Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Chili Girls

I was raised in a drug store, back when they weren't giant chains. When I was a very small child, the store had a fountain -- what people might remember as a lunch counter, but we always called it "the fountain".

And all my life, well, until Daddy sold to a chain, "the girls" worked at the store. "The girls" were all older than my own mother but always known as "the girls" nonetheless. There was Mary, a funny woman who ironed her husbands socks, Stella, very short and my favorite who retired first (to be replaced by Mary's daughter Kat), and Edith.

Oh, the tales I could tell about Edith. She was fun and lively, to say the least. She once got mad at my daddy and quit for several years but eventually came back. She was quite a cook, and cooked for years & years for Kiwanis until they finally let her be their first female member.

Ah, but my mother was quite the cook too. And the fountain was rather famous for its hot dog chili. And there was always controversy about who made up that recipe for the best hot dog chili ever. Mother said she did. At least after the divorce, Daddy said Edith did. Can I just insert here that divorces suck even after the kids are grown?

I just made the chili the other night. Although I have of course changed the recipe. And I make it a lot because it is so versitle -- straight up it is hot dog chili, add some beans and cilantro and it is taco filling. We had leftovers last night as taco salads.

My mother's original recipe (for it was my mother who gave it to me, not Edith) was for 20 pounds of ground beef. I usually make a pound of whatever type of ground meat I happen to have (rabbit, chicken or turkey usually). Her's called for 8 TBS of spices (except for the red pepper, only a tsp of that), and I use a heaping TBS for just my one pound (and just shake the red pepper on to taste).

It is just this: garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and the red pepper. I always put in onion powder and/or chopped onions too. If it is for tacos, I add a good bit of cilantro, probably 2 TBS. No need to be shy around spices. And salt to taste of course. And (for tacos) a quart of home canned beans (or a couple cans of commercial ones).

And one of the real secrets is this: after you brown the meat and add the spices, add about a quarter cup or so of water and then simmer until dry again. It helps it to blend.

I'd been thinking about doing a post on this anyway but today I learned that Edith died last week. Sometimes I wish I could just gather up everyone I ever loved in my life and tell them again that I love them, that they mean something to me and I'll always carry them with me, that I remember the good stuff, that I don't care what unhappy shit happened, that I don't really care who made up the chili.


Dan Trabue said...

Great memories.

She "ironed her husband's socks" - what a perfect short line to give a tremendous amount of insight in to a person's character.

lane said...

How poetic...

my dad was a pharmacist... I, too, grew up in a small town drugstore... these days it seems I'm losing to many of those people who were the foundations of my reality... they were there... thanks for the memories.

Joe Tornatore said...

your last paragragh is a great recipe for life.