A few months ago, we embarked on our most ambitious summer project yet.
An organic vegetable garden in our backyard! We planted tomatoes, zucchini, green chilies, basil, cilantro, peppermint, cucumbers and bell peppers.
To our delight, most (R.I.P cucumbers) of the vegetables survived our less-than-perfect tending. And we had our first harvest last week!
The kids enjoyed getting their hands dirty and watching the veggies “being born.” But the best part, they say, was popping the cherry tomatoes into their mouths, soon after harvesting them.
The project allowed the kids to make the farm-to-table connection, and they’ve grown a special fondness for yellow bell peppers. Bonus!
Chili-making in our house is a family affair, whether I want it that way or not.
I like my chili spicy, of course, but nothing outrageous. That might be why everybody who walks by the pot adds some Tabasco sauce. It’s sort of a test of bravery to take that first bite, once we sit down to dinner.
I’m not sure when the tradition started. The first time I made Cincinnati chili was before I had children — I think it might even have been before I was married — but the recipe has been copied enough times I can’t even remember what the original looks like.
Cincinnati Chili is a specific kind of food, served in chili restaurants in that city, usually on spaghetti and covered with generous dollops of cheese, onions and beans. It includes chocolate in its ingredients, along with whole cloves, allspice, cinnamon, Worchestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce in the version I make.
You cook the thing three hours uncovered, which is how the dish becomes a family project. Some time in the past 15 years or so, once my older children grew tall enough to reach the stove, I noticed that the chili was getting hotter. And as each child reached that magic age where they could reach the Tabasco sauce, the dish got hotter and hotter.
The odd thing is even my least epicurally adventurous youngest (the one who will eat raw carrots but not cooked ones) will scarf down chili no matter how hot it is, while I’m busy wiping my eyes from the unexpected pungency.
I guess that’s a good thing.
Associated Press photo by Larry Crowe