Ken Umbach (researchguy) wrote,
Ken Umbach

Ken's Corner for October 28, 2014

Ken’s Corner, October 28, 2014
Ken Umbach

I guess there are worse problems than homemade chili without enough beans. In fact, that is probably the least important problem I can imagine. Nonetheless, I made chili without enough beans, and with (comparatively) too much other stuff – sliced bell pepper, sliced onion, cut-up tomatoes, and browned ground beef (organic, grass-fed, I’ll have you know).

The problems were that I used (1) only one cup of dried beans and (2) black beans, which do not swell much when they rehydrate. The result was actually pretty tasty, rating a solid B-, anyway (by old-school pre-grade-inflation standards), but lacked that beaniness that Rosa (my lovely wife, for readers new to Ken’s Corner) prefers.

Yes, yes, chili purists disdain any beans at all in chili. Not in this household. Beans are supposed to be the star attraction.

So, I took another shot at chili yesterday, and this time turned to my old vegetarian chili recipe, posted on my website for many years. It can be adapted in many ways, of course, and need not be vegetarian, but this time I went to Bel Air market and bought some Morningstar Farms “Grillers Recipe Crumbles,” That product has gone by other names in past years, but that’s what it is now. It is a textured soy protein product. Frankly, it does not have the taste or texture of nicely browned ground beef. BUT it takes no time to prepare (open package and pour) and it produces no cloud or residue of grease, as even the leanest hamburger does.

Now . . . beans. This time I used “Good Mother Stallard” beans, from Chili Smith, a local grower of heritage beans. Quality products, by the way. Anyway, those beans, which are something like pinto beans, really soak up a lot of water and grow accordingly. (I saved some time by — after carefully sorting and rinsing — dousing the beans, two cups this time, in boiling water to soak for an hour.)

That was the ticket. I rinsed the soaked, enlarged beans, and poured them into slow-cooker pot, and added a 28-ounce can of finely diced tomatoes, one finely chopped mild, sweet onion, one small chopped jalapeño (with seeds), one package of the recipe crumbles, a few cups of water, two envelopes of chili seasoning mix, and a sprinkling of dried parsley flakes and turmeric, plus a little black pepper. Beans! Lots of plump beans! A couple of hours on medium, to get the pot to a full boil for a while, and a few hours on low, to simmer, and it was done. It was not spicy enough for me, so I sprinkled some crushed, dried hot peppers on my serving.

Here’s the problem: that recipe, especially with beans that swell up that much, makes a LOT of chili. So we’ll be having leftover chili for a couple of days. The good news is that the flavor improves with a day or two in the fridge. Maybe when we revisit the chili I’ll top mine with some chopped fresh jalapeños.


What are the odds? A couple of times a year I spend five minutes or so at our storage unit in Roseville, where I keep . . . well, books that mostly don’t need anymore, family memorabilia we have no place for in the house but cannot get rid of, various things I should give away (microfiche reader, anyone?), and excess inventory from my publishing business. Five stinking minutes.

Yesterday was one of those days. I parked near the entrance to the stairway, ran up to my unit, and retrieved one box of Wyla the Witch. (It’s a lovely fantasy novel. You want a copy? Let me know. No new copies are being printed, and I still have nearly 200 copies.) After I put the box in my back seat, dropped the key into the console between the front seats, and was about to get in the car and leave, a woman comes stomping in and demands, “You’ll have to move that car closer to the wall!”

WTF? It was about as close as I could get it while still being able to comfortably exit the car. And I was just about to leave anyway.

I fantasized afterwards of how I might have responded. I pictured myself saying, “Madam, the one time in six months that I am here for five lousy minutes to retrieve one lousy box and all of a sudden you show up and demand that I move my car too close to the wall to open the door? Seriously?” Or maybe, a blank stare and “Are you always this rude?” Or maybe, “Have you considered simply asking if I could move the car a little rather than flouncing in here and demanding that I move it?”

No, I just gave her a puzzled look, with head tilted, and said, “I’m on my way out.” (I could have added that I’d already be driving away if she were not blocking my exit.) Meanwhile, a moving truck lumbered in from behind, while other folks maybe in the same party strutted in from the exit end, toward which my car was pointed.

I suppose I could have moved the car closer, climbed out the passenger side door, and asked, “Is this close enough?” And then, climbed right back in through the passenger side door and driven away immediately. Or course, I would have had to explain, before moving closer to the wall, that I do not have depth perception (which is true), and would need her help navigating the car close enough.


Make of this what you will. The front page of the New York Times, October 28, 1914, reported that a John F. O’Brien, an ex-convict, had assumed the name and claimed the record of Frank X. O’Brien, an attorney from St. Louis, and under the assumed name and record gotten himself “nominated on the Democratic ticket for Judge of the Marion County Juvenile Court.” A judge removed the imposter from the ticket and replaced him with the incumbent, Newton M. Taylor.

Copyright © 2014, Kenneth W. Umbach.

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