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
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.