I have kept journals almost all of my life. I only stopped a few years ago (probably because of this blog), but I still have boxes of them. I don’t often go back through them – or, at least, it’s been quite a while. The other night, knowing I was going to have a busy week of work, I stole a night to myself and treated me to a dinner at Cheebo. With one of my old journals. And a few glasses of sauvignon blanc, a bowl of creamy artichoke soup and their signature chopped salad. Before I continue I will say that the food was very, very good. In fact, I will try to recreate the soup at home soon.
Here’s what’s wild: while reading my words from over a decade ago, it didn’t seem that I’ve changed as much as I would have hoped, or at least thought. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a really good person. What I noticed, though, is all of the things that got me dithered out, all of the promises I used to make to myself – are all the same dithers and promises of today.
Yet reading the entries still makes me miss something. Staying up until dawn? Dying may hair a new color and not to cover grays? Being able to do shots? Looking good in spandex?
I imagine it would be youth. Or at least the version of youth that allows us to fear little. The feeling of being invincible.
I wonder why that changes as we get older. Don’t get me wrong – I have no interest in going back in time. I don’t feel a need to recreate or relive any of the moments of my past. I am happy with the present and look brightly into the future. But I do find it interesting that, while looking through my words from all the years past that the more things change the more they stay the same. I can’t tell if I take comfort or concern in this little phenomenon.
I still spend too much time worrying about boys, friends, money, success and my hair. At least I don’t feel compelled to pierce anything or toy with the idea of getting a tattoo anymore. I’ve never liked doing shots, so I’m glad the pressure is off there. And I have little to no interest in wearing spandex (although it would be nice if it looked better on me).
Some of my old journals are filled with stories of my life, some are filled with watercolors, some have little taped scrawls and scraps from friends and the world, and some are simply filled with lists. Some parts are sad and some are happy, but they all mirror the trajectory of my life. They track the people who have moved in and out of my life, who have stayed, who have passed on. There is love, loss, elation, heartbreak, failure and triumph. I found them all to have beauty.
Last night, as I was trapped in the canyon, with my car needing a jump, my only phone dead and in a majorly crabby mood, I decided to make something that made me comfortable. Cozy. Something we all have eaten all of our lives in some form or another. A dish that, the more it changes, the more it stays the same. Something that can be colorful or monochromatic. Something that can be ornate or bare bones. Something that can taste both simple and complex. Something that everyone perceives differently. Something that most of us have an opinion about. Something that, like the phases of our lives, seems to be ever morphing – moving forward while suspended in time.
I have never used a recipe for chili. Rather, I like to toss all sorts of things in there each time and see what comes out. I never measure spices or concentrate very hard on it (except this time, so I could document the recipe for you). This go ‘round, I sautéed the onion in rendered bacon fat and kept the smoky bacon bits in. I always like to use lots of different kinds of beans for color and texture. It turned out great: thick, bold, good heat, smoky and rich. The sour cream and green onion on top add a splash of bright color and round out the spice.
And then I wrote everything you just read.
Chili with Beef & Bacon
2 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
1 red onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp chili powder
1 ½ tbsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp Hungarian paprika
1 bay leaf
15 oz can of tomato sauce
15 oz can of plum tomatoes
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp red wine
20 oz can of red kidney beans
15 oz can of pinto beans
15 oz can of cannellini beans
Sour cream and chopped scallions for garnish
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, stirring until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion, lower heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 7 minutes. Uncover pan, stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute.
2. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground beef; break it up with a wooden spoon and stir gently until it loses its raw color, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in spices and 1 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaf, and Worcestershire, wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook 30 minutes.
3. Add beans and cook 30 minutes, uncovered. Season to taste with additional salt. Serve warm, with toppings on the side.
*This post is part of the Denny's and/or Foodbuzz BACONALIA challenge and is an entry.