Flash Fiction #144

Hot Chili
PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

WATCH YOUR TONGUE

It was a fantastic idea, inspired, as many fantastic ideas were, by the liberal application of beer. He had decided to make chili as the snack for his turn to host the guys’ Friday poker bash.

He liked his food with a little heat to it….and surely his buddies would too. He put in lots of chili powder, and several shakes of Tabasco.  Maybe he’d add some of this stuff his mother’d given him.

Hmm, Scotch Bonnet Pepper?? Bonnets??  Thanks Mom.  Probably some delicate old schoolmarm spice.  He’d add a good tablespoonful.

Dig in guys. It’s got a little kick.

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Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

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I’ve finally come full circle and am now plagiarizing from myself. This is a re-imagining of my #46, Four Alarm Flash Fiction story of April 16, 2015.  Sorry guys.  I couldn’t help myself.  When I saw all those spewing fire hoses outside the frat house, it was either that, or a “cold shower” story.

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Supermarket Psychology

 

Sriacha Sauce

 

Nah, I’m not gonna talk about how stores get you to buy stuff.  This is more a report on the amateur sport of people watching.  Since I can’t get home delivery of the Toronto Sun, I go out for it Monday to Friday.  There are closer places to pick it up, but I go to a supermarket a mile down the road, because they sell it 50 cents/copy cheaper, as a loss leader.  It’s also the store which installed carts which require a quarter, and I often get the paper free, or nearly so, by putting carts away.

Since I usually have only the one item, I stand in the “Express Lane” checkout line.  This store’s express lines are 12 items or less.  Occasionally I have to remind a clerk or a customer of that.  I stood in another store’s “8 Items or less” line one day behind an entitled bitch who checked out 28 items, for just over $73.  I asked the clerk whether she had trouble counting, or just trouble saying no.  “Well, sometimes when it isn’t busy….”  “There’s me, and four others behind me, all with one or two items.  I think that counts as busy.  Do you need help from the manager??”

Watching people checking out whole cart-loads of groceries is no fun.  They buy everything.  (Almost!)  The fun comes from seeing the one or two items that people absolutely, positively, need, right now, and trying to guess why.  In my first post, I wrote of an older gentleman standing in line with a small bottle of Scope mouthwash, and a pack of Certs gum.  I still think my guess of a hot date that night was a good one.

The wife was going to brown a frozen pie shell, and fill it with instant pudding, as a dessert.  A check in the freezer revealed three boxes of frozen tart shells, but no pie shells.  Quick, over to the store for a package of pie shells – I can see that.  I understand bread, milk, eggs, meat – but some of the rest???!

A woman this week checked out only one tiny bottle of Frank’s Red-Hot Sauce.  I guess if hubby expects chili for supper, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  A man the next day purchased seven (7!) small bottles of sliced olives.  Now why didn’t he buy one large jar??  Is it pizza day at school tomorrow?  So many questions!  So many chances to be told to mind my own F…. business.

I followed a couple of women out late one Friday afternoon.  I thought they might be more than just friends.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I was disabused of my suspicion, when the manlier of the two told her companion that one of the women she worked with, hoped the same thing.  She’d had to explain that, “No, no!  I don’t like girls.  I like guys.”

I thought of KayJai, and her parties.  Each of these gals checked out two 3-liter/quart jugs of Motts Caesar Mix.  The liquor store is just across the plaza.  A 40-ouncer of cheap Vodka apiece, and it’s on to a weekend to forget.

Just yesterday, a shopper left with two, liter bottles of hydrogen peroxide.  Somebody’s going blonde tonight.  I hope it’s somebody’s girlfriend, not the dark Chicano guy who bought them.  A 9-year-old boy, all by himself, checked out behind him with 9 individual Michelina frozen fettuccini meals.  Where are Mom and Dad?  Gone away for the weekend?  Or is the scout troop coming over?

A couple of the clerks are people-watchers like me, and are absolutely mesmerized by the stuff people rush in to pick up.  It’s like a floor-show, without the $8 cover charge and two drink minimum, although one clerk told me there are days she’d pay the eight bucks, and need the drinks.  Sometimes the combinations are, to say the least, intriguing.  One can of tomato paste, and a jug of drain cleaner – Hmmm, is hubby going to make it to tomorrow??

I hope that’s for a Boy Scout baking project.  Otherwise, how many kids do you have in your house, that you need four large boxes of Corn Flakes at three in the afternoon?  Shouldn’t you be buying milk with that?  A chocolate cake, and two mousetraps??  Just what are you trying to catch, hubby stealing a slice?

I was recently up unreasonably unusually early on a Saturday morning, to take the daughter and her friend to a strawberry festival to market their wares.  I stopped into my preferred supermarket shortly after 8 AM opening, and wound up in line  with a bunch of old people.  Huh?  Whazzat?  Who, me too?

The old codger in front of me checked out a jug of orange juice, and a spray can of Pledge furniture polish.  That dust can really sneak up on you.  The white-haired winner behind me had a round loaf of Portuguese bread, and what looked like a small slab of Feta cheese.

Ever nosy tactful, I asked, “Is that breakfast?”  “Oh yes!  Toast and cheese.”  Oh, great, something else to look forward to, not being able to think about things like eating, until hunger pangs hit.  Then they all go to the McDonalds across the street, and nurse a coffee till lunch time.  People-watching is fun.  Just ask the folks who watch me.

Chili Cook-off

For those of you who have lived in Texas, you know how TRUE this is! They actually have a chili cook-off about the time the rodeo comes to town. It takes up a major portion of the parking lot at the Astrodome!

Grab a tissue, this is hilarious.

Notes From An Inexperienced Chili Taster Named FRANK, who was visiting Texas from the East Coast: “Recently I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking directions to the beer wagon when the call came. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy, and besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted. Here are the scorecards from the event:

Chili # 1: Mike’s Maniac Mobster Monster Chili

JUDGE ONE: A little too heavy on tomato. Amusing kick.

JUDGE TWO: Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.

FRANK: Holy shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that’s the worst one. These Texans are crazy.

Chili # 2: Arthur’s Afterburner Chili

JUDGE ONE: Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight Jalapeno tang.

JUDGE TWO: Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.

FRANK: Keep this out of reach of children! I’m not sure what I am supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

Chili # 3: Fred’s Famous Burn-Down-the-Barn Chili

JUDGE ONE: Excellent firehouse chili! Great kick. Needs more beans.

JUDGE TWO: A bean less chili, a bit salty, good use of red peppers.

FRANK: Call the EPA!! I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now; get me more beer before I ignite. The Barmaid pounded me on the back; now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I’m getting shit-faced from all the beer.

Chili # 4: Bubba’s Black Magic

JUDGE ONE: Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.

JUDGE TWO: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.

FRANK: I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it, is it possible to burn-out taste buds? Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills; that 300 lb. bitch is starting to look HOT, just like this nuclear waste I’m eating. Is chili an aphrodisiac?

Chili # 5: Linda’s Legal Lip Remover

JUDGE ONE: Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.

JUDGE TWO: Chili using shredded beef; could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.

FRANK: My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from a pitcher. I wonder if I’m burning my lips off? It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw those rednecks!

Chili # 6: Vera’s Very Vegetarian Variety

JUDGE ONE: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spice and peppers.

JUDGE TWO: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic. Superb.

FRANK: My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I shit myself when I farted and I’m worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that slut Sally; she must be kinkier than I thought. Can’t feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone!

Chili # 7: Susan’s Screaming Sensation Chili

JUDGE ONE: A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.

JUDGE TWO: Ho Hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. I should note that I am worried about Judge Number 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.

FRANK: You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn’t feel a damn thing. I’ve lost the sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava-like shit to match my damn shirt. At least during the autopsy they’ll know what killed me. I’ve decided to stop breathing, it’s too painful. Screw it, I’m not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I’ll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

Chili # 8: Helen’s Mount Saint Chili

JUDGE ONE: A perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili, safe for all, not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
JUDGE TWO: This final entry is a good, balanced chili, neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge Number 3 passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he’s going to make it. Poor Yankee, wonder how he’d have reacted to a really hot chili?
FRANK: ————–(editor’s note: Judge #3 was unable to report.

If you can even see the keyboard to type a comment after that one, you’re a better man that I am, even if you’re a woman.  I would love to give credit to whoever fabricated that piece of genius, but sadly it came to me unattributed.

It’s Chili Inside

All right, I warned you I was gonna pass out my recipe for chili.  You can try it and pass out later.

We never had chili when I was a kid.  We lived too far north to even hear of it.  Didn’t know what chili powder was.  My Mom’s spice rack had salt and pepper.  Ketchup was adventurous, although just after the ice-age, we called it catsup.  We were one of the first, daring families in our town to try Chef Boy-Ar-Dee’s boxed pizza mix.  We didn’t have a pizza tin, so we made it on a 9 X 13 cookie tray.  Perforce, it was a thin-crust pizza.  I learned to add a bit of flour to increase the crust, and add barbecue sauce or tomato juice to the kit’s little can of pizza sauce.  I grated extra cheddar for the top, but my mom couldn’t tell me what was in the spice mixture.  The wife has two racks, with 36 spices, and 24 herbs

Chili is a poor family’s meal.  Chili con carne means with meat, and is a small step up.  Often people saved money by adding things to the basic recipe, to stretch it, to feed more kids.  My wife’s family had nine kids.  They needed to stretch it as far as they could.

Basic chili con carne has meat, tomatoes, beans and chili powder.  After that, you can be as creative as you want.  Normally, the con carne means ground beef, but you can use ground pork, ground turkey – dark meat or light.  You can put in steak chunks if you can afford it.  The wife’s family’s recipe is below, complete with secret ingredient.  With lots of exceptions, women are often, merely cooks, following recipes, and men are the more creative chef types.  What I’m saying is, don’t get hung up on how many grains of salt.  Find out what works for you and your family, and go with it.

List Of Ingredients

1 to 1 ½ lbs lean ground beef

1 large cooking onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon chopped/grated garlic, fresh pressed or bottled – more, or less, to taste

1 – 29 oz. Can diced tomatoes

1 – 19 oz. Can red kidney beans

1 – 12 oz. Can Chili-style beans – Optional – if available, or any type of baked beans

1 – 10 oz. Can mushroom stems and pieces – optional

2  tablespoons chili powder – more, or less, to taste

Tabasco sauce, or equivalent, optional, know your eaters’ tastes and limits

Secret Ingredient/Chili Extender – leftover spaghetti, chopped to 1 to 2 inch pieces.  Adds a bit more meat and tomato flavor, as well as cheap carbs.  Strictly optional.

 

Preparation/Cooking Instructions

Basic instruction, Stir, stir, stir.  This is a thick soup/stew.

Chop onion fine

Add onion and garlic, salt and pepper to ground meat in large pot.  Break meat up fine and mix with onion/garlic.   Cook till done and liquid is driven off.  Add tomatoes.  Bring back to light boil.  Add kidney beans, bring back to heat.  Add chili-style or baked beans, bring back to heat.  Add mushrooms, if desired, and chopped, cooked spaghetti, a double handful, or as far as you want to stretch it, bring back to heat.  I add 6 or 7 drops of Tabasco.  BrainRants would use Sriracha.  Your tongue may differ.  Add desired amount of chili powder and stir well. Total preparation time to this point, including chopping onion and garlic, 45 minutes.  Turn heat to minimum and allow to meld.  Stir occasionally.  A half hour to hour allows flavors to blend.  You can add small chunks of cheddar, Monterey Jack, or other cheese to go con queso, stir in, or serve separately.  Serve with saltine crackers, nacho-style chips, or toast.  Serves four to five hungry men, or an entire church social.

I had a hilarious story about super-hot Texas Chili that I was going to include, but I’ve rambled on too long with this cooking show, and I can’t seem to find it in the computer files.  What I think I’ll do is wait a couple of days, until you are allowed back in the house after all these beans, and then post the chili story as a follow-up, when I can find it.  Happy eating.