I threw a small dinner party on Saturday night, and it threw me for a loop. It's not the drinking that gets me anymore (given that a couple of glasses of wine is my max), it's doing the dishes at 12:45 a.m. So I was tired this afternoon, and when I opened my email to find a guest post from my Boston-based friend in the kitchen Paul Kidwell (who has contributed to this blog before), I was very grateful. Then I read it, and I knew that I had to post it right away. I found it very moving.
This past Friday was the final day of our son's semester break and that evening we drove him to the airport where he boarded a plane to London, where he will begin the second phase of his studies at the London School of Economics. It was splendid having him home for three weeks and he and I shared and cooked some great meals together; including a Cioppino, lasagna, and baked ham at Christmas, and a lobster-fest on New Year's Eve. Interspersed were some of his favorites like Paella, beef stew, bolognese, scampi, risotto, and some tasty omelettes, croissants and pancakes at breakfast, plus savory soups for lunch.
Cooking with him has been a joy and he is definitely turning into a rising man with a pan. More proud I could not be. Of course, the time spent sharing those meals with he and his mother are time capsule moments that I continue to store in my memory as it serves as emotional sustenance when he is away. Which, unfortunately he will continue to be more of as the years pass.
Next month he will turn 21 and my wife and I recognize that we will see less of him; more and more. If we do our jobs as parents, each lesson we teach to our children prepares them for independence and takes them one step closer to leaving us. It's the natural order of things and from the day he was born, his mother and I began to instill in him knowledge that would lead to his self-sufficiency, self-motivation and self-awareness. And when we do this, it leaves us happy and proud; albeit more than a little bit heartbroken. I lose a sous chef, but give to the world a gifted young man who is thoughtful, smart, polite (courtesy is the only thing I expect from him, the rest is negotiable) and knows his way around the kitchen. We do our job well as parents if these are the types of kids we raise and the efforts of our labor are so splendidly displayed.
I thought about what to make for his final lunch - our last meal together until June - as I pondered the fact that from now on he will miss my cooking more than he eats it. It would have to be something nourishing, comforting and simple; not to mention distinctly American. My desire is to feed him, make it memorable and wanting more. If he comes home only to eat, I am comfortable with that. Whatever it takes.
So I decide on chili, which I make with a touch of cinnamon. It's the perfect meal for this slate grey January day and balm for my soul which feels a little less of him today. We have come to that odd point in our lives where he needs to be set free and I want him near me more than ever.
Paul Kidwell's Chili Recipe
- 1.5 lb. ground beef
- 1/4 cup dry wine (can also substitute beer)
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 cup onions
- 1 15-oz can red kidney beans, drained
- 1 15-oz can black beans, drained
- 1 14-oz can tomatoes
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Shredded cheddar cheese
Heat oil in stock pot and when shimmering add beef; cooking for 5 minutes.
Dump everything else in, bring to a simmer and cover for 30-45 minutes
Serve in a bowl and cover with cheese.