This week I made a chili for dinner using ground venison from last year and for flavor, italian sausage. I used Melissa Clark’s recipe from her Dinner cookbook, Black Bean and Pork chili, and I didn’t have the fresh sage, but everything else was simple. The ground venison broke down into textured bites and the sausage stayed together in delicious lumps. There is something special about the way tomatoes from a can of diced tomatoes will hold their shape as soft red monopoly houses. We had it for dinner the first night with grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream on the table. We also had leftovers of Ina’s sour cream cornbread, a slice of which you can place in the middle of your bowl and drape the chili around the edge, like a moat around a safe castle. The second night I had extra black beans which I kept separate, because of course some would rather have a pool of dark black beans instead of a bowl of complicated multi-textured chili. I didn’t know who would prefer which though, and I was curious to see that nearly half of us chose plain black beans over the chili. This worked out perfectly as we had enough for four bowls of chili and two bowls of black beans. Small economies like this are not the most important thing, but I end up keeping a tally of them in my brain anyway. (Wednesday Chef has the recipe written up.)
I can’t decide if the youngest is a greater eater because we never notice what she eats, or if in fact she is not a good eater and I just haven’t realized it because I never notice how much she actually eats. She doesn’t complain about the food and I don’t ask her if she likes it. Sometimes while she is telling us something–at dinner this is usually asking to “do the forms” by which she means “share your rose and thorns,”–I idly notice that there is still plenty of food on her plate. But then my attention immediately flits to something else and I move on. Somehow she became the 3yr old who asks if “they have salad?” at the airport, and for “the black sprinkles” of everything bagel seasoning on her avocado toast, and wants to know what I’m eating and if she can try it.
Earlier in the week I made a really rich but not particularly flavorful chicken stock and used it to make tomato soup. I asked the 11yr old to slice onions for me while making the soup. After that she could go back to her reading, but I said, “Any interest in opening the tomato cans for me?” And she said, “Yes I love opening cans.” Which was something I didn’t know.
I always make the same tomato soup, a very simple version from Martha Stewart originally I think, with sliced onions and garlic cooked down in butter for awhile, whole tomatoes added and cooked for a bit, and then about equal parts chicken stock added and the whole thing blended until the red color is lighter, more golden, from the onions. Unfortunately most of the children did not want the tomato soup (which I could swear on my life they loved this past fall), they wanted the chicken stock on its own, the supply of which had been greatly reduced, indivisibly.
We did end up going outside every morning after breakfast every day since I last wrote, and it has been remarkable. It has involved getting everyone out of bed earlier than we are accustomed to (around 7:30) and coming down for a briefer breakfast. There have been statements, made from pillows, such as “Not a walk today I hope?” and, “Well I don’t think I’ll come.” But after walking out the door, we’ve found new things to notice every morning. It’s been in the twenties and thick sheets of ice have formed on all flat surfaces, but once outside we quickly realize that it’s not as grey/cold/dark/ as it looked from the inside. All of us feel emboldened by this success so far.