Atlanta is the capital of the South with a cadre of Fortune 500 companies staffed with some of the smartest people I know, as well as the busiest airport, which shuttles these smart and sophisticated people around the world. I say to illustrate that there is a huge contradiction between the order of this major metropolitan city and the complete state of undone into which it falls under a couple of inches of snow. To its defense - Atlanta gets, on average, two inches of snow - total - over the course of a year. So when it "dumps" two inches over the course of a day, mayhem ensues. Grocery stores are slammed, bakeries are stripped of bread and the highways jammed. Today is just such a day. We're having folks over for Shabbat dinner. I had already planned the menu - hangar steak with chimichurri sauce, roast broccoli and mashed potatoes - before the winter winds started a-blowing and the hint of snow gripped the city. Still, in the spirit of the "storm" I busted out the slow cooker because even as I giggle at everyone scrambling to take shelter from the storm, there's something so comforting about the smell of chili hitting you as you walk in from the snow.
Full disclosure - I'm from Miami, so I don't have much room to judge. My parents are from the North so growing up we spent countless vacations in Manhattan shopping, catching shows and visiting with friends. We sledded in Central Park and ice skated in Rockefeller Center. Looking back - it was heaven. In my twenties I would go back to visit friends and on one such trip I had brunch with my Uncle Alan - my father's brother who was a native New Yorker before moving to Maine and heretofore signing all of his correspondence to me, Uncle Stoner. Stoner is my dad's younger, wilder brother and I adore him. Stoner could fly a plane, went to Woodstock and was friends with celebrities. In other words - he was a young, Miami gal's hero.
So after this brunch, he offered to walk me to The Met, where I was meeting a friend. We entered a snow-covered Central Park, so resplendent it took my breath away. We walked through Strawberry Fields, designed as a tribute to the late John Lennon. Maybe Stoner was as awed by the beauty as me or perhaps the thought of Lennon leaving behind his true love, made him melancholy. He started telling me the story of his first wife, Shelly. I knew Shelly from pictures and as a vague memory from family functions when I was very young. She was an artist - beautiful and chic. They had been high school sweethearts, married young and had my cousin, Adam. As we strolled through the snow, he revealed his devastating heartbreak when the relationship unraveled. No divorce is easy - within 10 years I would be attending his next wedding, his third, and within a couple of years after that, I would be divorced as well.
Life takes its course. The best laid plans come undone. And into every life, some snow will fall. If it's falling in your neck of the woods, try this chili. It's super easy and delicious. And when your husband walks in the door from the snow - he'll be comforted by the smell of chili.
1 lb ground beef (if you're in Atlanta, get the blend from The Spotted Trotter)
1 onion, chopped
1 T chili powder
1 t cumin
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t oregano, dried
1 t raw cacao
1 15-oz can Organic black beans
1 28-oz can Organic whole tomatoes in juice
Over medium high heat, sautee the first seven ingredients in a cast iron skillet until the meat is cooked and the onions are soft. It should start smelling good. Add the black beans and tomatoes with juice. Using a wood spoon or ladle, break up the whole tomatoes. Sautee for about five more minutes and pour the entire contents into a slow cooker. Set for three hours at low. Serve with grated sharp cheddar.