The really scary things are more ordinary

Archived | October 26, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was home alone in a house I’d spent the afternoon cleaning with nothing to do but bake up a batch of cutout cookies and a loaf or two of bread, enjoy a glass of wine, and listen to the show. Mr. Sundberg was out with the kids at one of those Halloween attractions where people dress up and try their best to scare the bejesus out of you, and I’ll confess I felt a bit guilty. The kids had asked me to come along, and I said no, I simply wasn’t up for it. Not that I was in a bad mood, or sad or anything. I just wasn’t in that Halloweenish zone where being grabbed by a ghoul would be a thrill.
Besides. I’m not really good at being scared. The scariest things to me aren’t monsters or people with fangs jumping out at me. The really scary things are more ordinary. Like if a man were just standing there, in the yard, looking at the house. That would be scary. Or if I were home alone and went to take a shower and came back and all of my underwear was gone. Just like that. I’d be rather shaken up and tempted to make a call. Or if a voice, say God, for instance, just called my name out of the blue: “MRS. SUNDBERG.” That would pretty much do me in. Of course, had I gone with Mr. Sundberg and the kids, I would have given a courtesy holler or two for good measure, in the spirit of the season and all, and I imagine it would have been a fun time. And it was.
I know people who are dying slow deaths from guilt, and others who are seemingly being kept alive by it. For a lot of my life, I let guilt dictate how I spent a good deal of my time. Until, worn down by it all, it dawned on me that — though in some instances guilt has its place — most of the time guilt is a waste of energy. One of my favorite thinkers, Jean-Paul Sartre, said that guilt is an anguish which accompanies the recognition of our total freedom. Now, that makes a lot of sense. And there certainly is some freedom in spending a Saturday evening alone in the kitchen. What to bake first? And all that frosting, and those unopened bags of Halloween candy… Why bring anguish into the picture? The kids are having a great time, the house smells like cinnamon and fresh bread, and all’s right with the world.
This recipe was originally made with ground venison, which makes a perfect substitute for the beef, though you may wish to add a bit of beef for the fat, if you know what I mean. Serve this up with saltines or oyster crackers, and some shredded Colby or cheddar. Keep a bottle of Tabasco sauce handy for those who like a bit of zing.
Big Beef Chili
1 1/4 lb ground beef
Brown beef with 1-2 T chopped onion. Drain excess fat, if any. Return meat and onion to pot.
Add the following:
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can chili beans, not drained
1 can (46 oz.) tomato juice
1/4 tsp. cracked or ground black pepper. Salt to taste.
2/3 – 1 T chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1-2 dashes Tabasco sauce
Good options: Add 1 can diced tomatoes along with tomato juice.
And/or 1-2 stalks of celery, diced, at end of browning meat.
And/or 2-4 oz. sliced mushrooms, or 1 small can of mushrooms, drained,just before adding beans.
Simmer a while and serve with homemade cornbread.