As a child I heard stories of her cooking. She was fond of any vegetable as long as it came in a can. Like most cooks in the 1950's she took an overly cautious approach to cooking pork, charring it to a burnt cinder. I don't think she was alone in this approach. It makes me wonder why anyone even bothered with pork if they were so terrified of trichinosis in the first place.
About ten or fifteen years ago she started to take a real interest in cooking which shocked everyone. She would cook large quantities of food then give it away just for fun. She's ask me for pointers when I saw her and was always trying new things.
She got really good.
I remember going to visit her at what was one of the lower parts of my extremely lucky and privileged life. I struggled with running a business, was dirt poor, and lived in a beat up old apartment that was cheaper than just about anywhere else in America but I could still barely afford it. Gram was really excited about a turkey chili she'd made and, to my delight, she gave me a giant container to take home.
I ate the hell out of that turkey chili.
If you've ever been truly broke, truly in financial hardship then you know how amazing it is to get free food. Even someone giving you a loaf of Wonderbread makes you think, Thank God I can use this to eat and that is $1.99 less I have to put on my credit card.
Gram's turkey chili was really good. For some reason I always remembered that moment, that time where Gram was interested in cooking and she made this turkey chili that was really good. The fact that it was made my my grandmother (and in no small measure that it was free) made it all that more special.
Tonight I decided to make turkey chili. I don't really think I've ever made it before. I had a ton of leftover turkey but I didn't really have a lot of the other ingredients. I wasn't about to go out on this rainy late night so I simply browned some garlic and onion then finely chopped the cooked turkey, and added black beans, tomato paste, part of a leftover Triple Bag beer, oregano, thyme, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, and a few dashes of hot sauce.
I served it over white rice with a dollop of sour cream and some shredded cheddar.
To go with the chili I had this St. Bernardus Prior 8. My grandmother didn't serve beer with her chili. In fact, I don't know if she ever had a beer to my knowledge. However, she was quite religious so I figured she'd approve of the good saint.
Gram passed away last weekend. Jen and I went to see her the previous weekend. She hadn't been doing well for a while but she was happy to see us. My beard was quite a surprise to her even though I've had it for the majority of my life. She also took particular note of Jen's scarf, pointing at it. When Jen handed her the scarf she threw it onto the floor. Jen was very happy about this. Her greatest wish in life is that when she's an old lady like grandma she'll be able to do anything she wants and no one will be able to say anything to her.
My grandma was always a very sweet natured and kind woman. I don't really think she shared Jen's philosophy on what license an old lady has. I don't think that's the reason my grandma threw her scarf on the ground but I'd sure like to think it was.