Christmas as we see it on The Hallmark Channel is an amalgam of dozens of different religious and cultural artifacts. From Roman Saturnalia, to Druid and Celtic traditions, to Coca-Cola and Macy's marketing efforts, the modern Christmas celebration is as heterogeneous and random as the population of a NYC subway car in Midtown at 11:35 on a Tuesday in March.
One thing, though: Christianity has as much role in Christmas as beans have in chili. It's non-essential, optional and often omitted entirely. It would seldom be missed.
As you may surmise, my Christmas is utterly without religion. Or beans. And I like my Christmas - and my chili - that way.
So here's my recipe for chili:
6 lbs ground beef 2 large onions 4 28-oz. cans of crushed or diced tomatoes 1 Jalapeno (hot) or Habanero (really hot) pepper 1/4 C. corn starch 1/2 C. lukewarm water Spice Mixture: 8 parts Cumin 3 parts Black Pepper 3 parts Cayenne Pepper 3 parts Garlic Powder 2 parts Oregano 1 part Allspice 1 part Ginger Brown thoroughly and drain the ground beef. Place in a stew-pot. Dice the onions and sauté until translucent. Add to pot. Add the tomatoes. Chop the hot pepper after discarding the seeds & membrane, add to pot. While stirring, slowly add spice mixture. Simmer on very low heat for at least three hours. Stir occasionally. Mix a thin paste from the corn starch and water. Stir this in to thicken up the broth 10-15 minutes before serving. Serves 12 to 15. Freezes well. ----------- Using teaspoons as the parts for the spice mixture gives a recipe this size a medium bite, maybe a little on the mild side. Vary the quantity to taste; the proportion is what's important.
And here, in case you are wondering, is the reason for the season.