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Spice Up Your Boring Life With Chili

Tony Nguyen and Jason Co deliberating over my chili. Photo by Max Emrich.

If you need something easy to whip up in a few minutes that tastes… decent… and that will leave your intestines feeling naughty, then continue reading. If you want real journalism, go read Ella KS’s article. 

The first step in making a good chili is to understand the motivation behind why you are making the dish. Are you angry because you were too dumb to follow the instructions on a brownie mix? Are you feeling sad because of the grade on your last test? The emotional aspect of this process will influence the end product; it probably won’t affect the taste, but it sounds cool to tell someone that your chili is made with anger. 

Next, you have to find your ingredients. This can be a difficult process, as a good cook chooses their ingredients based on knowledge and experience. I’m going to safely assume that you have neither, so for our purposes we will apply convenience to the four tenets of chili. The four tenets are: meat (or something that looks like it), green stuff (most likely vegetables, but green M&Ms are fine substitutes), chunky tomatoes, and beans. Grab a can of each ingredient and await further instructions. 

Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “a clean pan and kitchen and things are what makes it easy to cook stuff.”  Although a genius polymath, Da Vinci was noted to have maybe only eaten pre-packaged foods. However, his sentiment still stands. A clean workspace is vital to the process of cooking. I recommend scooping up all the non-essentials (garbage, pots, mixers, knives, forks, etc) on your counter and shoving them into a cupboard that you rarely use; personally I like to keep a special “trash cupboard” for cooking. Spray some soap on the surface you’re going to use and just kind of wait until it feels right to move on. Cleanliness is crucial. 

Now that the preliminary matters are taken care of, you can cook your chili. Bust out a pan, a utensil that looks like it could stir chunky things, and a can opener. Place the pan on your stove and align the handle with true north; this is extremely important. Open your can of beans and chunky tomatoes along with your choice of vegetable and pour them into the pan. Let this pile of goop sit for approximately thirty seconds while you think about why you are doing this. Now stop thinking; I never told you to think. 

Quickly throw in the meat before anyone notices that you forgot to cook it beforehand. Turn your stove on to medium rare, and begin dicing the meat with your stirring object. Mush your meat into pieces the size of about half the width of your thumb, and if the chili begins to look like something a bird might feed to its chicks, then you’re on the right path. Stir the chili for ten to fifteen minutes until golden brown. Place a lid over your chili and reduce the heat to medium for an additional five minutes. Based on my experience, you will inevitably get distracted at some point while the chili is cooking and burn it. This is expected and you shouldn’t be ashamed. 

To serve this dish you should start by introducing it with terms like “well-done,” “minced,” “sauté,” and if you’re feeling dangerous you could even say that it was “braised.” Do not elaborate if they ask you what any of that means. Presentation will make or break your chili. I once poured maple syrup onto a stack of fresh pancakes, and along with the syrup came a stream of well-fed ants. I still ate the pancakes, but my pancake intake plunged to only thirty percent of what it was before. Number one rule: check for ants. 

I had two people come over and give feedback on my chili, Jason Co and Tony Nguyen. Constructive criticism is the key to improving in any field. Unfortunately, what they gave me was anything but constructive. I gave them two bowls of chili and a google doc to record their thoughts as they ate. When I opened the document a few days later I found what they said. The best quotes I found were “I think he’s trying to poison us,” “my last three bites [were] just beans,” “there’s a lot of beans,” “this is not chili, more like a bowl of beans,” and a positive comment: “I was pretty surprised at the result, he said he burned the first two batches.” Their critiques were valid, and my heart was shattered, but these are the risks of pushing the boundaries of culinary arts. 

You just made chili! Congratulations! But also not really, it’s just chili. Think of this ordeal as just the first step on a journey that will get you nowhere! I am NOT responsible for how terrible your chili undoubtedly tastes. 

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