Let’s Eat — A Writer’s Guide to Cooking

I’m pretty sure I inherited my taste for spicy food from my father’s side of the family. My grandmother and her brothers loved hot stuff. Once, when Uncle Archie was visiting, I watched in awe as he polished off a jar of mixed hot pickles, then drank all the juice. It was the same with hot peppers from the garden. He would eat them right off the plant, seeds and all.

California’s San Joaquin Valley provided plenty of other opportunities to scald the palate. Not far from where we lived, there were a couple of hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants that specialized in fabulous, fiery fare, along with the cold beer that was needed to survive.

In my opinion, hot food is best eaten regularly. If you take a few weeks off — if you don’t keep in shape, so to speak — then when you do eat it, it can cause a great deal of suffering. Now, I enjoy suffering as much as the next person, but I’d rather suffer a little each day than do it all at once. It helps keep me alert, and it reminds me that things could be a lot worse.

Rambunctious Chili
1 lb. dry pinto beans
Approx. 1 lb. ground beef, 20% fat
2 yellow onions
3 or 4 cloves garlic
2 tomatoes
1 jalapeño
Approx. ½ large bell pepper
A little cooking oil
Chili powder
Crushed red pepper

This is a great dish when company is expected and you want to keep things simple. I like it with corn bread or tortilla chips. My wife adds a handful of shredded cheddar cheese to hers.

First, soak the beans for six or eight hours (overnight works), then rinse. Discard the soak water. Use fresh hot water for cooking. Six cups per pound is about right, but this can be adjusted for thicker or soupier chili.

While the beans are cooking, brown the meat in a frying pan in the cooking oil. Add a layer of salt, pepper, and chili powder, then sprinkle in a little of the crushed red pepper. Chop the onions and spread them out over the meat. Chop the garlic and bell pepper and do the same. Add a little salt, pepper, and chili powder to the vegetables. Slice the jalapeño crosswise, then divide each slice into quarters, and add to the mixture. (Note: You can usually tell how hot a pepper is by its smell. The hotter it smells — or feels inside your nose when you inhale — the less of the seeds you should use. If you or your guests aren’t accustomed to hot food, or if you don’t trust your sniffer, take it easy.)

Every few minutes, move the stuff around in the frying pan. Add salt, pepper, chili powder, and crushed red pepper to the newly exposed surfaces. I should say that the crushed red pepper can also be dangerous. A little goes a long way. At the same time, the chili powder not only adds important flavor, but a nice color as well.

Okay. Don’t overdo the meat. When the onions and peppers are soft, taste the mixture to see if it needs anything.

When the beans are about half done, chop the tomatoes, salt them, and add them to the pot. Then add the contents of the frying pan, including all the juice. Mix everything together and simmer on very low heat for an hour or so with the lid on at an angle. Stir occasionally.

That’s it. If you can, let the chili rest for a few hours with the lid on. It helps bring out the flavor.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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