Posts Tagged ‘Chili’

Well, up here in Exile, Oregon, we’ve got ourselves a little problem. And it just so happens that this particular problem is so common that no one even bothers to mention it anymore, even though it’s on just about everybody’s mind. And it’s the same sort of trouble that manages to show up at about this time every year, just like clockwork. I’ll give you two hints: it’s green, and it’s thought by some to grow on trees. Anybody?

Nice try, Mr. Heckle N. Jeckle, but you’re wrong. See, everybody’s got problems with money these days,* not just people living up here in Exile, and not just during tax season, either. Go ahead, guess again – I’ll wait. That’s right: what I’m talking about here is MOSS.

Now, I realize that most of you people might not put moss high on your list of things to be concerned about. In fact, you probably don’t think about moss much at all where you live, all warm and sunny and dry. You might even think that a lush green layer of moss is something to be admired, or maybe even cultivated, like a weedless expanse of lawn or a plush head of hair. Well, I guess I’d better clue you in on the bitter truth, then. Here goes: Moss Is Not Your Friend.

Oh sure, moss may look perfectly sweet and innocuous when it first parks itself on your rooftop. It’s so puny and primitive and meek – I mean, is it really even a plant, or just tall algae? Before you know it, though, the tables have turned and you’re cryin’ like a baby for some mossy mercy.

See, moss has leveraged its way into every nook and cranny of your house, and your yard, and your life. It’s wreaking havoc in your downspouts, prying up your shingles, sliding under your siding, and hatching plans to take over the lawn. Yes, day by day, inch by inch, moss encroaches on your territory, tinting everything in its path until you find yourself awash in a cruel green sea.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against green. Green is one of my favorite colors. Green doesn’t go around broadcasting dire warnings like orange, or blocking your way like red, or shouting mindless incendiary slogans like yellow. It’s very cool, green is. Very soothing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that green is why they call this area of the country the Pacific Northwest. It’s so peaceful up here in this green corner of the country that it’s positively soporific.

No, the problem with moss isn’t the color – it’s what it represents. Moss is an ally of damp and cold, a messenger of mortality, and a dank agent of decay. It’s mute evidence of the passage of time, the onset of inertia, the slow decline into decrepitude, and the inevitable return to dust – or to mud, anyway, if you live up here.

Yes, moss is a smirking green reminder that you’re not as young as you used to be, and to you, the roof might as well be the surface of the moon. That’s right: moss is throwing a party upstairs, and no, you’re not invited. There isn’t a ladder tall enough to bring you up to the level of that half-inch high rootless invader. Moss may be low, but you’re even lower. Although at least you’re higher than algae. But man, that is still just so low.

So, how are you supposed to cope with this green fiend’s seasonal assault on your psyche? Well, it’s my belief that you can combat winter’s weak light, damp chill, short days, and mossy afflictions by cooking up something hot and spicy and delicious.

So to that end, I’m going to prescribe brewing up a big batch of my Alarmingly Red-Hot Chili con Carne. It’s a sure-fire way to beat back the creeping-green blues, and at the same time, end up with leftovers that get better with age – just like we do.  I mean, so what if we have to hire someone else to pry the moss off our backs these days? We just happen to be working smarter instead of harder is all, and unless you have moss for brains, that’s called improvement.

So, take it from me: A bowl or two of this stuff, and you’ll be armed and dangerous, and ready to put the kibosh on moss. The dosage is up to you, but I recommend two bowls to start with. If that doesn’t work, call me in the morning. You might need something stronger involving habañeros.

* Except Martha Stewart.

Wilma Jean’s Alarmingly Red-Hot Chili con Carne

Effective Against the Creeping-Green Blues And Other Winter Afflictions

1 large onion, chopped

3 Tbs. olive oil (or lard or bacon grease)

2 lbs. lean ground beef or turkey (3 lbs. if foregoing the beans)

2 16-oz. cans pinto beans (optional), drained

28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

4 cloves crushed garlic

3 bay leaves

1 heaping Tbs. dried oregano (reduce to 1 level Tbs. if using dried Mexican oregano)

2 tsp. cumin seed

4-oz. can chopped jalapeños

2 Tsp. salt

A few grinds of black pepper

2.25-oz. can sliced ripe olives

  1. In a large stockpot, sauté the chopped onion in olive oil (or grease, if preferred) until it starts to brown and glaze the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the ground beef (or turkey, if preferred) and cook until the meat has lost its pink coloration and some water has evaporated.
  3. Add the ground tomatoes, pinto beans (if using), garlic, bay leaves, oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper, and jalapeños.
  4. Cover and simmer on low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove cover and add sliced black olives. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes more.
  6. Adjust seasonings and serve. Good as is, or spooned over tortilla chips and topped with lettuce, cheese, and avocados.

Special note to Oregonians: Don’t blame me if it’s too hot – I warned you. Just add some more beans and you’ll be fine.


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Rachel Laudan

A Historian's Take on Food and Food Politics

in vita esse

To be alive. Dispatches from the surface of the planet.

Kicking and Screaming into the Kitchen

and other thoughts on eating, cooking, living, loving, writing from an ex-circus sideshow performer turned elephant advocate and author