One sign of changing times, is the lack of children that I see roaming the neighborhood streets. It makes me think about my experiences as a kid among many that would trapeze our neighborhood streets like we owned them.
There is always one house that you’re not supposed to play around or a neighbor to be wary of. Yet, as a child you felt safe in the hood, walking past closed doors unaware of what may play out behind them.
It’s only with adulthood do we learn that people often wear mask, only allowing you a peak at their real character when they want to.
Like Mr. Gregg of 318…
As soon as school let out, it was normally a race to see who could drop their book bags and make it to the “spot” the quickest. The “spot” being a huge rock that sat between my street and the one that ran behind it.
I’d always be last-For some reason or another- requiring me to run and search for wherever the group had disappeared too. There was this white clapboard house that seen better days, sitting somewhat empty just beyond our favored meeting place. Grass grew to knee level heights in the dipalitaped yard. It was the house that you were to stay away from, the person who lived there was the one to be wary of.
At least that was what I’d been told.
Vaguely, I remember my mother telling me the house was empty and had been for many years. How it should really just be torn down. That anyone living there was definitely up to no good.
However, I’d noticed on several occasions, the flickering lights that shone from the back window at night.
Someone did indeed live there..
Perhaps some monster that didn’t like to cut the grass..
Several weeks later some friends and I sat on that rock eating candy we’d stolen from the corner store up the street. I’m pretty sure the owner of that shop knew we were responsible for the missing jolly ranchers and now or laters that he could never keep in stock. But he never said a word as we ran for our lives with pockets full of candy. In fact, I’m sure one time I heard him laughing when we made our getaway.
As we sat upon that rock -scheming up some nefarious plan that would get us all in trouble- we noticed thick clouds of smoke coming from the enigmatic white house. Flames flickered from the side window and sounds like breaking glass rang from the interior of the house.
Suddenly people were running out to try to put out the fire. Telling us kids to go home. All of a sudden a shadowy figure appeared in the window, then out stepped a man with a belly the size of the rock we sat on. He hopped out onto the driveway, as we all stood motionless.
Coughing uncontrollably it was hard to understand what he was trying to tell us. Until a woman ran over and asked him if he was alright.
“Mr. Gregg, we called 911, and the fire is dying down. Looks like it was just in the kitchen”
Mr. Gregg turned to the lady and explained that he was glad the fire was out but any chance he had of winning that chili cook off was ruined because he fell asleep.
I can’t really remember what happened after that. Just the sounds of my mother laughing to the point tears formed in her eyes when I relayed the days events later that evening..
I couldn’t for the life of me understand what was so funny, until I sat at the table across from her and realized what we were having for dinner.
“I made chili and cornbread for dinner”
We hollered hysterically throughout the entire meal. It never fails that I think of Mr. Gregg of 318 doing a slow jog out of his burning house every time I cook a pot of chili. It’s an inside joke that no one seems to get but at least now-if you ever meet me and we end up making chili- you’ll know why I can’t stop laughing.
Mr.Gregg, is a self proclaimed master of chili. Although I’d never eat what he cooked. He still lives at 318 ( I won’t say the street name), however eventually he started paying kids to cut his grass and the house is now this weird shade of brown. He’s a truly nice man who just likes to avoid people as much as possible. Unless-of course- you like chili.
*Good condiments for the top of your chili include shredded cheddar, diced avocado, sliced red onions or scallions. The possibilities are endless. Spice it up with red pepper flakes or more cayenne. In my opinion, chili is even better the next day, so if possible make this a day ahead and just re-heat before serving*
Andouille Red Bean Chili
Prep Time- 30mins Cook Time- 45 mins Yield- 8-10 servings
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped, seeds removed
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced
¼ cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1- 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained
1 ¼ cup of beef broth
1 cup beer
Heat the oil in large heavy bottom pot over high heat. Add onions: sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add jalapenos and garlic; sauté for about 1 minute.
Add beef and sausage, sauté until brown, breaking up with back of fork. About 5-6 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, then mix in the tomatoes, beans, broth and beer. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chili thickens, blending together the flavors. Stir occasionally, about an hour. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Ladle into bowls and top with cheese, sour cream and even green onions.
*Note: I didn’t drain the grease from the meat after it cooked. It’s just the way that I cook my chili, since I don’t mind the grease. Feel free to drain the excess grease off the meat after cooking, then return to the pot before adding in remain ingredients. *