Thursday, February 25, 2016

Making Chili

Today I made my second vat of chili of this mild New Orleans winter ... or maybe it was the third. I like to make chili and have done it for many years. Today's batch-making reminded me of one of the few truly great ideas in my "storied" life. (I like my stories, and I stand by every one of them.)

During the holiday season of 1993 or 1994, my then-wife-and-mother-of-our-daughters Linda and I talked about having a Christmas party, and while so discussing, inspiration struck. At least. that's how it seemed to me. (As I recall, Linda, mother-of-our-daughters-and-bringer-home-of-the-bacon, wondered if I'd had a brain lapse or worse. Maybe being home with the kids had rendered my mind ... that's all, just rendered it, like fat.) I said, "Instead of having a (boring, staid, follow-the-leader) Christmas party, let's have "A Chili & Eggnog Party"! And despite some(one's) misgivings, we did. (I will add that this occurred at the end of the Great Period of our marriage, shortly before (or before I recognized) the beginning of the Gradual and Fateful Decline. A year or two later, this inspiration would have been thrown onto the ash heap of Fading-Marriage Suggestions!)

We had never had a party before; probably there had never been more than 6 other adults together in our house during the period of our marriage, but we started a list and it kept growing. We decided to invite close friends, members of Linda's family, a few near neighbors who we did not know well ... and then we decided to invite some more people who were not close friends or close neighbors but who we thought might enjoy the party: nice acquaintances and not-quite-close-but-nice neighbors.

We did not have a big house and did not know whether everyone invited would fit, if they all came. Also (and this was one of the heart-breaking aspects of our marriage over the last 12 of its 20 years), our house did not have "flow." I hate to admit, but (as a male) have to admit, that I do not relate to or value "flow" in a house; but for this night and while anticipating perhaps 50 people in our house, flow was an issue.

But, could it possibly be that 50 people - many of whom we barely knew - would all say "Yes" to our invitation? "Chili & Eggnog" was, after all, scheduled during the Christmas/Holiday Season?

We planned other edible items and drinks, guessing at how much we might need; but the core treats for the night were to be chili and eggnog, lots of chili and eggnog. I composed invitations, humorously & somewhat fictionally describing the genesis of this party idea, and we sent them out. Everybody responded.

Everybody responded in the affirmative.

We began a slowly growing panic as the date got closer and we bought supplies.

No one canceled. We continued to build our panic.

The night came, vats of chili and gallons of eggnog were prepared and arranged. Other drinks and treats were spread, and we crossed our fingers.

Everybody came. No one failed to appear. At first it was a little weird; there were lots of people there who did not know many of the other people. And, of course, there was NO FLOW!

But the weirdness did not last long; people drank and talked, ate and talked, found interest in new acquaintances and talked. The music we had chosen seemed to be the correct volume and type. Life was good; people were cheerful. Several people came up to me and thanked me for inviting them. Some said they had been surprised at the invitation and did not know why we had invited them, but they were glad we had. Several people remarked on what a fun time our party was.

No one left early. No one got drunk or otherwise obnoxious. No one spilled chili on the floor. No one got sick. People stayed till after midnight. We did not run out of food or drink, but almost all of the chili was eaten, eggnog was drunk. For the only time in my life I had had a part in creating a great party. We (I) had billed it on the invitation as "The First Annual Chili and Eggnog Party." There never was a second one. But for one shining moment, "Chili and Eggnog" was The Bomb.

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