After more than a week of being sick, I'm finally on the mend, and as I come out of the drug- and snot-induced stupor that has plagued my days, I am becoming slowly aware of the disaster that is my home. I'm not an unusually anal person. Sure, I have lots of neurotic tendencies, some of which resemble symptoms of OCD, but for the most part, I can live with the fact that my house will never be spotless, and I will never win any Martha Stewart awards for being Martha Stewart-esque. Who the heck wants to be like her anyway? I'd much rather be normal and un-domestic...otherwise, people may expect too much from me, and no one wants that.
All of that being said, I am just anal enough to be bothered by the fact that two weeks have passed since I was able to give my house any type of love and attention, and because of that, I'm now sitting in a collected two-weeks worth of filth, and it's driving me insane. So I got up in the mood to clean. I woke up with the express purpose of being wifely and of fulfilling all of those things thought of as "womanly" duties (the feminist in me balks at the thought of such closeminded-ness, but as my buddy and I established at work the other day, who are we kidding?! Our husbands are definitely not going to take it upon themselves to keep a perfect and pristine household, so why fight the inevitable?)
But as much as I've cleaned and returned my house to some semblance of its former order and organized chaos, it still doesn't SMELL quite right. I've cleaned the litter boxes, so it's definitely not the cat poop that's detracting from the scent of my home. No, it's something that goes a little deeper than that.
In the course of my two-week illness, I have not only given up cleaning properly, but I have also stopped cooking. When I get home in the late evenings, I just haven't been hungry. I've guiltily left Jeremy to fend for himself and have collapsed on the couch without any dinner and, more importantly, without any of the lovely cooking smells that usually permeate my house at least four nights a week. I miss those smells! Those smells are what bring me joy and keep me calm. Food is my friend and savior, and I've been seriously neglecting our friendship.
This brings everything up to present day, and where I sit now, waiting for my ground beef to brown, chopping onions and peppers, and preparing a big pot of slow-cooker chili. Okay, so that's not exactly where I'm sitting, otherwise I wouldn't be able to type this now, but you get the point.
Most of my cooking can probably be best described as "semi-homemade." This isn't something that I admit readily or proudly. I like to think of myself as an innovative chef, a whiz in the kitchen, with a natural flair for turning out wonderful and unique dishes. I like to think of myself in a lot of pretty ways like that. But let's be honest, reality is usually pretty stark and, well, realistic, and the reality of my short life as a cook, which has been dotted with small victories and highlights, can generally be best described by the dish "chicken noodle gravy."
My chili is really no different than anyone else's chili, as exhibited this morning by a quick spin around the web to check out other chili recipes which are dangerously close to my own. I start with a pound of ground beef, add two cans of diced tomatoes (usually Rotel because I do like a hot kick), add two cans of kidney and/or pinto beans, add eye-measured and unspecified doses of chili powder, cumin, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper, then round everything off with one diced onion and one diced green pepper. Where my recipe deviates is my addition of...wait for it...HONEY.
Yes, I add honey to my chili, and it's an addition I have found that I can't live without. I developed this habit from my Daddy. He's a lot like me when it comes to cooking. He experiments. He adds. He subtracts. He cooks with his heart and with instincts that are generally pretty spot-on (something I'm hoping to develop with age). The best pot of chili I can ever remember consuming was created by my Daddy, and it was the original experimental pot with the honey. To be precise, it had honey and a small dose of white vinegar. I can't accurately describe the way this amazing pot of chili tasted; I'm just not talented enough as a writer. But I can say that the sweet undertone of honey followed by the bitter, pungent taste of vinegar was a memorable combination.
Thus far, we've been unable to reproduce it.
My Daddy gave up after that first pot. My sister and Mama didn't approve of the doctored up chili, and so it was gone before it really began. But I never forgot the taste, and I've been chasing that elusive combination ever since I set off on my own and began developing my own identity as a cook.
The chili that's simmering away in the crock pot now has sourwood honey in it, but I'm still debating the addition of a little white vinegar. I don't want to mess up a good thing, but I can hardly resist the urge to chase after that perfect pot.
Regardless, this lowly pot of early winter chili has already served its primary purpose. It's filled my home once again with the scent of cooking, something that just can't be replicated or replaced or, as I've learned after the last couple of weeks, lived without.