Right about now six years ago, we unlocked the door to our house for the first time, plastic bags of takeout in hand. Though it was too dark to see, we could hear the ocean’s waves as we let ourselves in; we inhaled the unfamiliar briny air. Dazed and exhausted from our moving efforts and unable to figure out how to turn on the dining room lights, finally, we plopped onto the floor in the dark. By the light that shone in from the streetlight outside, we dug in to the foil wrappers and plastic containers containing gyros, falafel, hummus and tzatziki with pita, spanakopita, dolmades, a salad of romaine, red onion, feta, olives, and cucumber. Our cats skulked around warily while we ate the meal we’d picked up from a nearby Greek restaurant. We devoured everything, feeling a part of the neighborhood already as we ate the food from a local establishment. We put the remains of our dinner in the empty refrigerator, explored our empty house, then set about getting to sleep. Things hadn’t gone according to plan; we didn’t get access to the house until the end of the day, and the movers were only able to deliver one small load of our belongings, and the kids’ beds. Everything else would be delivered the next day. But we were in our house, and happily so. Alexi and I couldn't stop grinning.
Amidst a sea of boxes, days later, we watched the Super Bowl. Every year when the Super Bowl rolls around again I think about those first days here, though I couldn’t tell you who played that year, or in any of them since then. Except for number 48. Last weekend, our home team won it. Afterward, the roads were a raucous band of honks; the streets were pure, unfettered joy. The polite ignoring of strangers that is city dwellers’ way of preserving privacy went by the wayside. On the way home from the party we attended I exchanged honks, waves and thumbs up with those in surrounding vehicles and on the sidewalks, blinking back tears. The moment was bigger than football. Now, by the light of headlamps, every night after dinner, the boys play football. I hear the occasional call of “Omaha!” as I load the dishwasher and wipe down the counters.
We had snow over the weekend. It began Saturday night, and when we woke up Sunday, it was still snowing. Abbott brought us coffee in bed. He had already taken Nelly out for a walk, laying the groundwork for a snowball fight as soon as possible. Alexi, Nelly and the boys went out to play; I made pancakes and listened to Blue Train in its entirety for the 200th time. As I melted butter and cracked eggs, I thought ahead to what I’d make for our next meal, deciding on chili, and started to think about the one after that, as I always do; just as I did when we moved in to this house six years ago, when Abbott was in kindergarten; now he’s in middle school. I hope I have a better sense now, than I did then, of what matters in the long run. I’ve become a little less anxious about small things; I’m learning to care less about what other people think, and more about what I think. I’m also harder on myself as I age. It feels like the number of chances to get it “right” is shrinking.
This vegetarian chili came about when Alexi brought home a colleague’s recipe. She had shared some with him at work, and he loved it. I've made my own modifications over time such that I can safely call it my own.
Inspired by MaryAnn
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped, to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2/3 cup uncooked barley
½ cup water
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced
30 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
30 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 quart no chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1 bunch kale
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, jalapeno and garlic, and cook until the vegetables have softened, 8-10 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the barley, butternut squash, beans, tomatoes with juice, water, stock, and kale. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the barley and squash are tender. Stir in the cilantro. Serve with sour cream, lime wedges, chips, and avocado.
Yield: 6 servings