Friday, December 2, 2011

The Chili Fight

BF and I

January will make 6 years with the BF. Which is officially longer than any other relationship either of us have had. I suppose we were due.

The BF is a hunter. As in rifles, mossy oak camouflage, blaze orange, and deer tags type hunter. My understanding is that he's been hunting since he was legal to do so, and he comes from a family that hunts. It's just part of his heritage.

Which works out fine for me. Despite my weird peace-mongering hippy-like nature, I am no vegetarian. I firmly stand with the people who say, "There's room for all God's creatures-- right next to the mashed potatoes." Especially if those mashed potatoes came from my own garden and were cooked in a Dutch oven over real wood coals from firewood that I gathered myself.

Nevertheless, in all his years, the BF has yet to actually shoot a deer. Maybe, somewhere in the back of his head he thinks they're really cute. Maybe he secretly just doesn't want to have to drag something with antlers back to the car. Maybe he lives (and therefore does most of his hunting) in California-- which is not a terribly hunter-friendly state and truly does its best to make catching your own meat as big a pain in the ass as possible... or maybe deer just run really fast. But thus far, in those 6 years that we've been together, our freezer stays stocked with wild blackberries and homegrown butternut squash far more so than venison.

Which works out fine for me, despite my weird peace-mongering hippy-like nature.

And it turns out that, considering that I am not from a hunting family, I am pretty fond of wild game. It probably goes well with my Pioneer Woman thing-- whatwith the sourdough bread and the cooking with fire and such.

But it isn't uncommon for us to find ourselves in the occasional possession of venison from those who have had successful deer seasons. So for the last year we've been hoarding two packages of venison stew meat.

The BF shows very little interest in doing anything with it. He showed little interest in doing anything with the last venison stew meat gift we received from a friend a few years back. I finally made chili with that and it was delicious.

But one rarely finds oneself dreaming of a hot, hearty bowl of chili in these parts, where we only enjoy about 3 months of reasonably cold weather.

But last week, the temperature finally dropped, the fog rolled in, we started burning our firewood and a big, steaming pot of chili sounded really good.

So while we were planning our weekly menu, I suggested we make a pot of venison chili.

So the BF told me I should go (right then) and take one of the packs of stew meat out of the freezer and let it thaw.

And then it was Thanksgiving. And our Thanksgiving is a two day extravaganza that prevented us from bothering with more mundane dinner preparation until Saturday. Saturday came and, although we now had thawed venison, we did not have a big pot of beans to add it to.

Ok-- I admit. Cooking dry beans has not yet made it to my personal list of "talents." I've tried a number of different methods and I've never experienced results that ended in total, inedible, disaster, but the beans always end up splitting.

Big deal, right? It's not  like the BF's "57 Bean Soup Plan" where he insisted on purchasing a bag of EVERY SINGLE TYPE OF DRY BEAN (and general legume such as split peas and lentils) that the store had in stock last year, then carefully measured them out and mixed them together with total disregard of differences in cooking times.

And that should give you enough information to understand that we are currently in possession of approximately 16 different types of dry beans and general legumes left over from his Bean Soup Plan... not to mention a gallon pitcher of mixed dry beans that I have no idea what we will do with because the Bean Soup Plan did--indeed-- prove to end in aforementioned disastrous results.

So, it was Saturday evening when we realized we had not planned appropriately for the chili project by getting a pot of dry beans soaking throughout the day... so I went to the pantry and fetched a collection of reasonably like-minded beans (black, red, and kidney) and started soaking them with intentions of then draining them in the morning and then starting them in the crock pot on Sunday morning.

However... come Sunday morning, the BF had had enough of the long weekend at home and insisted on getting outside and doing something.

Me: Doing Something
 I'm not opposed to "doing something." In fact, before the BF, I used to "do somethings" on a much more frequent basis. But I like to sleep till 11 a.m. (I also like to stay up till 2 a.m.)-- the BF is a morning person. He voluntarily gets out of bed at the crack of dawn... and sings. He thinks 9 a.m. is the absolute last possible time that you can start "doing something" and still get it done. Because, apparently, he's afraid of the dark. That's the only reasonable explanation I can think of for people who feel compelled to be safely back inside before the sun sets.

I have a whole theory about peoples' hunter/gatherer/caveman ancestry: My people definitely were the ones on night watch... the BF's did not like being left outside in the dark when the things they'd been hunting all day suddenly started hunting them. That's my theory.

So, Sunday morning came and the BF and I were on our way up to the foothills for a hike about 2 hours before my brain could even warm up to operating temperature. So the beans were left soaking.

Monday was the day of the local Christmas Parade, and my business neighbors and I open up our offices on the fourth floor of the building where we work for a big Parade-viewing party, so I left the house in a flurry of crockpots and apple cider on Monday morning, giving nary a thought to the beans. And so it was Tuesday morning before I remembered to rinse the beans and get them in the crock pot.

The BF gets home from work an average of 3 to 4 hours ahead of me. The plan was for him to sear the venison, chop some onions and peppers and throw it all into the pot.

The BF does not have a cell phone. But he had been IM'ing me upon his arrival at home in order to keep me apprised of his chili-related plans. He mentioned that there were a lot of beans. So I told him to just put what he didn't need into a bowl and I would repackage them for freezing when I got home.

And then I got home.

I got home around 9 p.m. to find my dear BF standing in front of a 6 quart stock pot on the stove top, still wearing his work uniform (he's a mechanic, he gets filthy everyday, so he takes a shower when he gets home,) and looking lost.

He looked up at me and said, "I don't really know what I'm doing."

And that would have made a great story. It was cute. I would have fixed the chili and come to work and told the story of how it was so cute that he didn't know what he was doing, even though he was the one who kept telling me how the chili plan was going to unfold, and life would have gone on.

But noooooooo.....

I walked over the pot to find a very full stock pot of chili. He said that there was a lot of chili and he thought we needed to add liquid.

Oh, This? I've always had this.
 I asked what he'd done with the extra beans. He looked at me like he'd never noticed the ear in the center of my forehead before and said, "what extra beans?"

I reminded him that we'd just had this conversation about putting half the beans away for another use. He said, "oh yeah, I forgot to do that."
This befuddled me slightly-- we'd just discussed it about an hour ago.

I also see that the venison is in rather large chunks, and I asked why he hadn't chopped it up into smaller pieces before he seared it.

He informed me that "I guess I kinda thought the venison was going to be for the dogs." And, "it turns out maybe I don't really like venison that much."

This was news to me. In a similar way that it would have been news to me if he'd looked up at me and said-- after 6 years together-- that it turned out that he wasn't that into girls.

I had no response to this new revelation of his. Other than to wonder why he pays for deer tags every year if he doesn't actually want one.

Then he mentioned that he was not exactly impressed with the beans.

To which I also had no response.

Then he concluded that perhaps he was also "not that fond of beans."

At this point I begin to conclude that my BF has suffered some sort of head injury.

Then he did it. He went from adorable "It turns out I'm not that sure how to make chili after all" to "and it's all your fault."

This did not go over so well with me.

As near as I can tell, his argument came down along the lines of accusing me of having not just procrastinated on the project, but downright just not finishing something that I'd started. He claimed that he had never claimed to know anything about making chili, but he had gotten tired of waiting for it to get done so he felt it was time to force the issue.

This is very unusual for him. Usually everything is "we" and "us" and here he was, basically handing me the blame for him not knowing what to do with the chili-- and I don't even know how it's my fault that he'd just realized he didn't even like venison and beans "all that much."

Apparently, I took the venison out of the freezer too soon and I soaked the beans too long.

Except-- where had he been? How had he managed to miss the whole last week? The part where we decided to make chili. The part where he told me to take the meat out of the freezer to thaw. The part where he told me that we needed to use the dry beans (I could easily have opened a couple of cans of beans and we'd have had chili that same night.) The part where he confidently announced that he was going to sear the meat, that he was going to add the meat and the veggies and the tomato sauce? You know, the part where he had the plan on how to make this into chili?

It's not that I can't make chili. But had I been aware that the entire project was resting on my shoulders, I may have opted for a different plan.

For one thing, I wouldn't have started thawing the meat the day before Thanksgiving. I also wouldn't have opted to have Thanksgiving dinner (the traditional one that we did on Friday) at noon. I don't believe in Thanksgiving lunch. I have never understood why so many people insist on having Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of the afternoon already, but 3:30 is about my limit of tolerance for an early "dinner." I swear I never got the memo about noon... which meant that we were out of the house for two meals that day, because, as all who do a traditional TG with family know, once you arrive at a relative's home, you cannot leave. Sometimes your grandparents simply hold you hostage, sometimes you find yourself sucked into some sort of hypnotic, fun-with-family-around-the-fire, Christmas movie-induced stupor... either way, if the whole day hadn't ended up coming as such a surprise to me, I could most likely have predicted that we would not be home for dinner-- real dinner, at real dinner time.

So it should not have come as any sort of shock that there was no way we were going to start the chili project until at least Saturday anyway.

But I wasn't the only one who totally forgot about soaking beans on Saturday morning! And I wasn't the only one who totally forgot about putting them in the crock pot on Sunday.

And then he looks at me with total sincerity and tells me that he's "worried" about me because I keep insisting that nobody cc'd me on that whole "Thanksgiving at noon" thing. He says that "it was discussed several times" that Thanksgiving would be "at lunchtime."

And I am utterly convinced that he is doing that thing that men do where they assume that their significant other just magically knows everything they know--or are supposed to know. I think they do this because we are the ones who know when their niece's birthday is or why we're feeding their parents' dogs one weekend. So it stands to reason that if he was in on a conversation, he would assume that I was also listening.

So this is how the scene unfolds from my point of view:
  • First of all, he realizes he doesn't know how to make the chili.
  • Then, he decides that he doesn't like beans or venison anyway.
  • Then, somehow the chili didn't work out the way he had planned because I didn't start making chili on Thanksgiving Day when we were busy doing other stuff and mostly not being at  home anyway.
  • Then, somehow the chili didn't work out the way he had planned because I let the beans soak too long before cooking them because of all the other things we had to get done that weekend.
  • Then, I've apparently developed dementia because I can't remember a conversation that I wasn't part of and somehow this is why the chili isn't right.
I was, shall we say, less than impressed with the way this conversation was turning out.

Ultimately the BF decided that fighting over chili was a stupid idea, we now have 6 quarts of perfectly edible venison chili, and I get a story to tell to other women who nod and laugh and assure me that they totally understand my pain.

And the BF admits that the chili turned out "pretty good" afterall.