This morning I set out to reinvent the concept of chili.
I went to the grocery store without a map. Recipes are for cowards. Cooking is an act of violent creation. I'm not selling square hamburgers and meals that promise "happiness" to children in the form of congealed fat and a colorful plastic choking hazard. When I cook, I offer nothing but a promise that whatever you taste, it will be for the first time.
My game plan didn't fit the accepted definition of "chili," but I don't give a particular shit about the gutless opinions of Food Network peons. I started with a traditional base of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, kidney beans, white beans, garlic cloves, a bit of cumin and lots of onion. I have respect for the onion, a vicious, nasty species, king of the vegetable kingdom. Onions fight back against the dicing blade, releasing airborne countermeasures that irritate the tear ducts and send rookie knife handlers running for the eyewash station. Two-hundred-pound weight advantage, standing in my own house, wielding a stainless-steel Japanese blade, and I'm the one crying. Veggies in the pot, I unpacked the meat.
I cubed two large rib-eye steaks, rolled a couple dozen ground pork balls and diced up half a pack of applewood smoked bacon, all free range. We (Man) conquered the food chain long ago, so I have no qualms about eating meat. I do, however, insist any animal that dies at my hand be permitted to spend its life grazing freely under God's sky. There is nothing so craven as the consumption of tortured meat. The final touch was half of a can of chipotle chilies, a spicy little catalyst designed to make the whole thing light up like a barge fire. I flipped the Crock on low and
When I rolled up to Bruner's stoop he was hunched over his ride, which was wheels-up for maintenance. His left hand was holding an oily rag and a bottle of degreaser. His right hand was furiously scrubbing grime and dirt from his bicycle chain with his ex-girlfriend's pink Oral-B Contour Clean Indicator tooth brush. I leaned My Therapist against the fence and bought deli coffee across the street while Bruner tightened everything with allen wrenches and filled our wheels with compressed air. We shot the shit, talked about pussy for a half minute and set out for Zuccotti Park, shredding pavement on our way to the Occupy Wall Street protests.
The propaganda cable cabal had cut some self-interested footage of the event; we wanted to see for ourselves what these characters were up to. You could hear them before you saw them, on account of the filibustering 24-hour drum circle. I came for the chimes of freedom, but these dudes were meth-addled percussion addicts. We locked our bikes to a barrier fence and cut through the park past aging hippies, scrubby punk-rock anarchists, vulturous photographers and media operatives, stoic police officers and borderline personalities looking for a place to enjoy their manic phase. The occupants of the park had one vaguely unifying descriptor: poor and pissed. Beyond that they were a muddled collection of unkempt riffraff.
Those with a clear, coherent message and an eternally valid point of view on socioeconomic justice were flanked at all sides by vapid bongo players and willfully unemployed miscreants who were falling over themselves to undermine their own movement.
The Williamsburg Bridge shuffled beneath our homeward wheels. Less than a mile from the epicenter of Mankind's latest stab at a fair shake for as many people as possible, and I'm already thinking about the banal minutia of my day-to-day, how I have to be up early tomorrow and need to get to bed before 9. I'm thinking about laundry day approaching, and how to avoid my boss, and that I need to transfer money into my savings account, and that I just stood in the heart of change and felt nothing.
It's too bad. There's a lot of promise, with mirror protests popping up in every major city, including tiny satellite gatherings in small towns across the country. The reach of this movement even extends across the ocean, drawing crowds from San Francisco to London. I heard they even got the pigs to use tear gas in Rome. Funny thing about tear gas: it's a coward's weapon designed for peaceful targets with valid, defensible points of view. I hope this feeble alliance holds its ground. I run too hot for this shit. If I had my way, I'd set up a guillotine for the FOX News assholes and shorten a few hedgefund managers at the neck, French Revolution style. But we don't live in that world anymore, Gandhi set the gold standard. These kids need to keep doing whatever they are doing, applying pressure and heat, low and slow until something gives.
Bruner and I parted ways wordlessly at the corner. I jangled my keys through both apartment doors and shouldered My Therapist up the stairs and into the kitchen. Andy startled chortling like a mad man. Eight hours of change and the chili was done. The cover of the Crock Pot was beaded with moisture; shackling back a pocket of steam. The surface of the chili chattered with bubbles. I sniffed the air point-blank: sweet, smoky bouquet of tomato, thick and meaty, latent heat. The back of my throat squared for a fight. I test drove with a wooden spoon, stirring against resistance, loading up with chunks of perfectly stewed beef and pork, sporadic vegetables and cluttered beanery. Pausing to let it cool, eyes closed and mind open, I chewed slowly, savoring the taste and texture. Revolution.