Growing up, I was fairly spoiled by some talented cooking in the family, mostly the fault of the incomparable kitchen skills of my Grandma Honey. My mom picked up on most of Grandma’s skills, and even my sister was eventually able to do so to some degree. Later in life, when he retired from the middle manager grind and had more time to himself, my dad took up cooking as a hobby and actually got pretty good at it. Hell, sometimes I can even come up with some good stuff.
When I first met Yes Dear, she was living off a half-shoestring budget and most of her cooking skills reflected her budget and the kids’ palates. Meaning simple and bland. (Her amazing ability to stretch food on a limited budget remains unmatched, however). Over the years since we’ve been together though, her cooking has improved considerably. A few things she has gotten so uniquely good at that I can almost never hope to duplicate (like her tuna casserole and her BBQ potatoes).
The one thing that I missed the most, though, was a good pot of chili. Not too hot and spicy, and a little on the sweet side. Unfortunately, what passed for chili in Yes Dear’s kitchen more akin to a tepid and bland beef and vegetable soup. I’d tolerate it for dinner when I was hungry, but would often “forget” to take it to work with me the next day. And woe was it when she cooked enough for a week, and I had to find ways to make it disappear. Unfortunately I try to be too good of a husband to complain or gently offer “suggestions” (which in her eyes means the same thing) so I told her I liked it but I was too full, or wanted something different after three days straight, or any excuse I could think of to avoid giving her the impression that I thought her “chili” was terrible. Because if a man wishes to stay happily married, there are a few things that he needs to learn. Like when and how to be carefully diplomatic about such hot-button items such as his wife’s cooking, and when to just suck it up, bite his friggin tongue, and just BS his way through the rough spots.
So for many years, I longed for good chili. I’d eagerly lap it down whenever I went somewhere that offered it, or to someone’s home that was cooking it, and just savor the moment with a bit of sadness, because I knew that the moment would end and it might be a while before I was able to enjoy good chili again. Even Wendy’s chili (which really isn’t that bad) was worthy of such celebrations. And I became resigned to the fact that I would never be able to enjoy good chili in my home, because even though Yes Dear could do some things absolutely delicious, chili just wasn’t one of them and would never be.
Until a couple of nights ago.
Our church Halloween party (actually held the evening of the 30th) featured a chili cookoff. Yes Dear offered to enter a pot into the contest. Inwardly I groaned, thinking that not only was she so far out of her league to be on a different planet, but apparently she wasn’t even aware of just how far out of her league she was. Of course I played the part of the supportive husband, but was really afraid of her suffering the embarrassment of having to bring home a full pot of something nobody would eat, and me being stuck eating it all week.
Instead, I’m now (to myself) chewing on crow. Though I can’t quite call it the best I ever had, it was exponentially better than she’s ever made it before. Good enough to where I told her that it was the best pot of chili she’s ever made and whatever she did to it this time, do it again from now on when she makes it. And I wasn’t BSing either, it was the absolute truth.
Oh – the contest? No, she didn’t win. She got honorable mention for being fourth place out of four entries. But the judges were saying that all of them were very good and hard to choose from. Most significantly, the pot came home empty.
Yes Dear was so thrilled that this weekend she made another pot of chili. And it’s even better that the last. Seems like she added and tweaked a few things and suddenly hit the magic flavor combination. No, I’m forbidden to share her secrets. But at least she finally learned to make chili.
I just have to temper how much I rave about it, lest she figure out how bad I thought it used to be…