Wednesday, December 18, 2013

As You Wish: A Party from the Pantry


Be ready. Stock the fridge and the pantry with big, happy, wintry foods that set up quick and settle deep (beany-beery chili, corn chips and hearty veggies, a few good breads and cheeses). Make sure you’ve got plenty of firewood, some beer and wine. Pull out the folding table, extra chairs, some board games, plastic utensils. Nothing fancy. All you need now are one or two very good friends and a miracle.

With almost no planning and a great deal of luck this weekend, I conjured such a miracle in the middle of a storm of foul moods and foul weather.

Every December my husband’s impending birthday seems to suck him down into the Pit Of Despair. He’ll shackle himself with worry over possible ideas for celebrating. He’ll list, and then methodically reject, all kinds of outings, meals, cakes, and general family merriment. He will mope around the house for days, terrorized by the threat of another year passing with nothing to show for it.

“I don’t want a party,” he’ll declare. But then, inevitably, about 18 hours before the big day, he will realize that only being around friends and family will cure him of his annual birthday blues.

I’ve spent the last twenty years building up an immunity to his birthday malaise, so I refused to be sucked into his Fire Swamp of drama. Instead, like the raspy old Albino, I set about nursing my poor husband back to his pre-birthday health.

Thankfully this year the winter weather predicted for his big day forced the cancellation of many regularly scheduled activities, and our neighbors were feeling a bit restless. So when we summoned them over on the morning of the event, they gratefully agreed to storm our castle for a few hours of merry-making.

We spread out a lavish buffet of mis-matched munchies. Ben happily chunked together a pot of his famous turkey chili while I steamed up some ciabatta (recipe here). There was no time for cake, so our friends brought a big tray of homemade holiday cookies. (Even with no chocolate coating, they went down easy.) 
Brave wet friends tramped in, dragging dominoes and soggy children behind them.

Wine flowed, fire crackled, sarcasm reigned. Songs were sung, games were played, and no one bothered to keep score. My husband was revived. Love and laughter had conquered all.

Ironically, this is the second consecutive year that we’ve thrown an impromptu birthday party for my husband. I should have known it would come to this.

Next year, I’ll be ready for my true love’s annual drama, but still I’ll wait for him to figure out the solution. Just when he’s almost dead from the stress of facing another birthday, I’ll remind him that we simply need to take stock of our assets, then call in the reinforcements. With my brains, his chili, and maybe a holocaust cloak thrown in for good measure, we’ll be prepared to be spontaneous.

As you wish, dear, As you wish.
(photo credits: MGM)

Ben’s Turkey Chili: A Loose Guideline

2 lbs ground turkey

5-6 peppers (sweet red and green, banana, chili – whatever combination you like)

6 cloves garlic

2 cups celery

6 dried ancho peppers, reconstituted and seeds removed

28-oz can of crushed tomato

1-2 bottles of dark, malty beer

4 tablespoons cumin

3-4 cans of beans (pinto, black, roman, cannelloni – whatever combination you like)

Garnishes: chopped cilantro, tomatoes, shredded cheddar, chopped jalepeno peppers, variety of hot sauces, sour cream, etc.

In a large skillet, brown turkey and remove to a large pot.

In the same skillet, sauté peppers, onion, celery and garlic until soft. Add this to the turkey.

Place dried anchos in blender with a little water and grind. Dump this into the pot with meat and vegetables.

Add beer, tomatoes, cumin and beans. Throw in a little water, until pot is 1/3 full

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Taste. Add more water if necessary, or replace with beer.

Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Simmer for another 30 minutes or all day until guests start getting cranky.

Serve warm with fresh bread and allow guests to garnish to their hearts’ delight.

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