I made chili today and as silly as it sounds, it took me back in time.
My mom used to make chili with tomato soup and kidney beans.
She used to TRY and add onions, but some of her kids (namely ME) were super picky and would make a fuss if they even thought there might be onions in something.
So they were pretty much always left out. Probably easier that way.
It’s something I remember her making, so clearly. Chili with tomato soup.
When I started living with my husband, we each had different ways of doing things and I remember him being so surprised that I would add tomato soup to chili.
He thought it was odd. He had always made it with tomato sauce and tomato paste. So when he makes chili, it’s made his way.
I knew I wanted to make chili for dinner tonight and I didn’t have the tomato sauce or tomato paste.
But I had a can of tomato soup.
I love the connection I feel, being in the kitchen and making something she used to make.
Such a simple thing. Comfort food on a Sunday afternoon, just like mom used to make, is one way I feel close to her again.
She used to say everything she made was made “with love”. And we would laugh at how cheesy it was. I miss that. So much.
I chopped up the onions for the chili, in my kitchen this afternoon, and it took me back. To those days. When she was still here.
Mom was right. She told me I would grow to love them and appreciate them in cooking. (Gotta hate when parents are right.)
So today, as I got ready to make my chili, I remembered her making the chili with tomato soup – hold the onions please! But I also remembered the days after she died. Almost thirty years ago.
I remember my Aunt Shirley came to help us with things – like finding a dress for the funeral.
And I remember her making a batch of chili. And I remember thinking it was all wrong.
I’m not sure why on a July day, chili would be a go to. I guess it was her way of helping. Making sure we were fed. Making sure we had something that would last after she was gone.
What I remember so clearly was the onions. I remember watching her cutting up onions. In big chunks. And I remember thinking “mom doesn’t do that! mom doesn’t add onions!” “if mom were here she would tell you how we like chili and it’s NOT with huge chunks of onions – stop!”
I remember feeling so much anger at that chili. Watching her cut those big chunks.
Knowing we would never want to eat it because that was not how mom made it.
That is not what mom did. She knew not to use onions, and if she did, she knew she pretty much had to chop them so small we would never detect them.
It was a moment I will never forget. It was a huge realization that life would never be the same. That person was gone.
So today, as I chopped up the onions and threw them in the pot of chili, I remembered that day nearly 30 years ago, when life was collapsing all around me.
Something as simple as chopping onions was the beginning of the end of things as we knew it.
Nothing would ever be the same. That person that loved us enough to leave the onions out was forever gone.
So trivial yet so huge.
So today, with a cupboard missing ingredients, I cooked up some chili just like mom used to make. And I smiled, and I remembered just how much she loved me. And I smiled, because she was right.