BLAME THE CHILI VERDE

IMG_0001

This is not chili verde, but half-eaten pot of Sunday Soup, made differently each week from vegetable stock and veggies + some combination of legumes, rice, or potatoes. recipes below

Early on, in the ’90s, when I said I didn’t eat meat, people would offer me chicken, and I would have to point out, Isn’t chicken meat? What about duck? they would ask. Turkey? Rabbit? I started calling myself a “vegetarian” because trying to explain what I ate led to a lot of confusion. And a lot of questions. And then more questions. Why? But why? And eventual irritation on both sides.

Let’s Cook It Right and cookbooks. I read a great many books on nutrition when I was in college. Some of my friends were vegan for religious reasons, and we all cooked. I came to terms with butter (I’d been raised on margarine) and sugars and avoided pseudo-foods. I cooked a many bad meals and followed any number of recipes, and Gary gamely ate most everything I set before him. He claims today that he became a vegetarian because I stopped feeding him meat.

We eat wild seafood sometimes and dairy and eggs. We are not vegan. I am not ready to give up dairy and honey and eggs. I have been told I am “Full of s–t” for claiming I am vegetarian. Most vegetarians agree. Today, I can call myself a pescatarian and people know what I mean, but in 1990 that was expecting too much. The term was not then in common use. None of these terms were familiar 30 years ago. Properly speaking, we are ovo-lacto-pescatarians. Even today, using that term in most company, non-vegetarian company, stirs up trouble.

Instead, I labeled myself vegetarian, and mostly for moral reasons. I had always loved eating meat, but after close exposure to feed lots and the flavor difference between grass fed and feed lot beef; way too many horror stories about slaughterhouses and animal diseases from a friend working in the vet school in Fort Collins, Colorado; recognition of the damage done all over the world to habitat, global warming, indigenous populations, and so forth by raising mammals for Americans to eat; ; more stories about how we raise farm animals in this country, the genuinely horrific conditions in which pigs and chickens are often raised; and a family that is painfully sentimental about animals and horrified by cruelty to animals; I decided it was wrong to eat what I would not kill. Why cry over the injured animal in a film and then eat a hamburger? I could not do both. I loved eating lamb, roast beef and stew, and pork shoulder in my chili verde, but I stopped by choice because I believed it was wrong for me to do.

These days, I still eat fish and shellfish on occasion because I would be willing to kill them in order to put them on my table. This is not to say that I did not cry when I caught a bullhead as a child, my dad clubbed it, and then threw it back in the water. I did not cry for the trout on another occasion. But also, I was not the one that killed either fish. And I eat eggs and dairy. I can be particular about sourcing both, but dairy, in particular, disturbs me. I need to give up cheese. I know this. Butter too. The dairy industry . . .

In the 70s, didn’t I give up on table grapes for years because of the farmworkers’ strike? Haven’t I given up other foods for health and moral reasons?

Processed meats is unhealthy. I loved bacon, but gave it up even thought I love that salty goodness. Ham was the easier pork product to abandon. I do not understand why people want pot bellied pigs as pets and get weepy reading Charlotte’s Web but will eat pork. Isn’t there an inconsistency there? If describing beef as “dead animal flesh” is offensive, it is also accurate.

There is the reality that meat from a supermarket is not what my grandmother would have been eating from off the farm, and a long ways from what my ancestors a hundred, much less a few thousand years ago were eating. The meat we eat is genetically different from what our ancestors ate, and it is born, fed, and raised differently. The flesh found in a supermarket packet is chemically, nutritionally quite different.

It is this sort of thinking that made me determined, more than 30 years ago, to stop.

It was the chili verde that held me up the longest. I needed several years to figure out how to feed my family and myself food that was delicious and also contained nothing with a face. My chili verde had to be as wonderful even without meat. I use no recipe, but an approximation exists in my personal cookbook:

chili verde

1970s • makes two or more quarts • serves 6-12

I used to make this according to the recipe from the Denver Ladies Society which called for pork shoulder browned first in oil and then the rest of the ingredients (no onions or beans!). I learned how after visiting Colorado for the first time in the mid 70s. I tried beef and finally accepted that it was best made with pork shoulder (bone in and then removed from the pot and the meat picked off and returned to the other ingredients. This chili was so good, it had the final hold on me as an eater of meat. The recipe here is almost nothing like the original in terms of ingredients, though I promise it’s as delicious as the original version from years ago.

1 large onion, chopped

1 T. garlic, crushed

2-3 lbs. roasted or fresh cut up tomatoes or 2 large cans tomatoes 

1/4 t. cinnamon

1 T. ground cumin

1 T. ground chili or more to taste (ground chipotle is best)

1 t. salt, or more (the recipe called for 1 T., but  I use smoked salt)

1 lb. fire roasted, seeded, and chopped poblano or 2 large cans diced green chilies

3 c. cooked black beans

chopped red or green bell pepper

Sauté onions in 1 T. of oil till transparent. Add garlic for a minute longer. 

Add remaining ingredients and simmer altogether for at least 45-60 minutes. May simmer for hours and additional ingredients such as zucchini or bell pepper may be added later; it is better the next day.

*optional: usually I begin by cooking 1 c. of dried black beans in water or stock to cover or add 2 or 3 drained cans of black beans and a grain such as corn or rice. You may substitute fresh tomatoes, add chopped cilantro, chopped zucchini, green onions, fresh chili peppers, etc. For a heartier meal (and a complete protein) add a pound of frozen or fresh corn kernels right at the end, or 1/2 c. raw rice and simmer 45 minutes or longer before the end of cooking. NOTE: beans do not cook well in an acidic liquid, so if you want to cook the beans with the rest of the ingredients (which I do from time to time), add the tomatoes and chilis only after the beans are tender. 

Serve hot with cilantro on top, nonfat sour cream or a stick of cheese stuck into the middle, and hot rice or chips on the side. Or serve with or over the rice or spooned over crushed tortilla chips for tortilla soup with cheddar cheese grated on top.

green chili dip: add equal parts grated cheddar cheese to completed chili and heat gently. I made this once for a party and three quarts were gone in the time it took me to greet more people at the door. This also makes a wonderful, if rich, meal.

The Sunday Soup, such as shown at top, is easier and more variable. Begin with onions and garlic, add stock and rice or lentils or potatoes and other root vegetables. I add fresh herbs such as thyme or dried such as a curry powder mix or chili, simmer 20 minutes (or start brown or wild rice sooner to cook). Then add whatever other vegetables I have—zucchini, fennel, fresh beans or tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. Cook just till tender, then serve with something fresh on top: cilantro, parsley, basil, a grating of cheese.

All vegetable trimmings go into a freezer container, which becomes stock for the soup the next week. I made this every Sunday for years when I was working 60-70 hours a week, because it fed us for three or more days and other than chopping the vegetables, it was easy to make while I scored papers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s