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Uncle Dan's Chili



Seriously invented by Uncle Dan

- Please take a drink for every reference you don’t understand. Heck, please take a drink for every reference you do understand.


It’s evening. Here we find ourselves again on a cold, wintry clichéd Maryland evening. I sit and hunt for inspiration. Why? Because standing would soon become tedious. See? See what I mean? I’ve got nothing…


And sometimes, that’s just where inspiration comes from – the nothingess (get ‘em Falcor). There’s no beautiful woman, painting or song exists to get my juices flowing. That sounded gross, but I must plod on. I propose to you that regret, loneliness and anger match love, beauty and tranquility – muse for punch drunk muse. What does it for me is the lack of inspiration. It’s the demotivation that gets my pen to paper. Though, this is just cooking so let’s cut anyone’s ear off over a radish.


It’s that job I was too afraid to interview for. It’s the wartime goodbye I never got to say. It’s the ball I never hit. It’s the kiss I never received and the love I never gave. I draw my inspiration, sometimes, from the empty spaces.


Hemingway and Bierce wrote to express their personal horrors with war. Love songs inspire deodorant commercials. Pain inspires best sellers and beanie weenie recipes.

Life is filled with those, “if I just would have done that, things would have been different.” Try not to regret those things. Yes, we may have been happier if our choices would have been different. And yet, we may have gotten eaten by ferrets. Hindsight is a cruel mistress with no real answers or pleasures. Instead, cook it out my friend. Cook it out.


So, that brings me to Uncle Dan. I met him a couple of times. He was an all-around solid guy with a big heart. I don’t know much about him. So, I lament. He did make some pretty awesome chili though. This recipe gets tossed around the family like it’s no big deal.

It happens in families where the extraordinary is commonplace. I’m sure Georgia O’Keefe’s kids protested after she decorated the house with her “flowers”. Same same.

Anyway, this isn’t the put fire in your shorts kinda chili. It’s nice and sweet and mild with a little back bite – like me only with more beans. I regret that line immediately.


- 1 pound ground beef

- 1 chopped onion (I prefer white)

- ½ chopped green pepper

- 1 bag of French’s Chili O seasoning. (yes, it’s cheating, but trust me for Uncle Dan’s)

- 2 cans of stewed tomatoes

- 1 can of water

- 2 teaspoons sugar

- 4 tablespoons of pickle juice (it will give you freckles)

- 2 cans of pinto beans (the whole can, no need to drain)

- 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle pepper (or cayenne to taste)

- A dash of cinnamon

- 1/8 cup of cornmeal


In a large soup pot brown your ground beef with your onions and green pepper. Add the Chili-O (copywritten by someone who is not named me). Let that cook in two minutes. Add stewed tomatoes, beans, water, sugar, pickle juice, adobo and cinnamon. Bring it to a boil.


Turn down the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. You should get the nice gentle bubbles. Oh god, that’s Bob Ross cooking…little happy bubbles here and there in your chili. After those forty minutes, add the cornmeal, stir and cook for another 20 minutes. This will thicken the chili up. Salt and pepper to taste. It shouldn’t need much.


I serve mine with a dollop of sour cream and maybe some shreds of cheddar cheese. Yes, I’ve also served mine with some corn muffins from a box and a large strawberry margarita. I suggest you do the same. Now, go be inspired somewhere. Not here though. Atreyu is in trouble. I’m exhausted.


Tomorrow, oh tomorrow, we are going to revel in our leftovers with some chili mac. Rejoice.

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