Friday, December 12, 2008

The Ice Storm

This morning at 4:30, I gasped myself awake, hooked up to a sleep apnea machine that was no longer delivering the promised Positive Airway Pressure, but instead delivering a sound that sounded waaayyyy too much like Darth Vader on the treadmill. No power, no light, just a Stygian blackness that tends to make one believe that blindness has struck.

I have barely gotten used to this apnea contraption, which has offered blessed relief and improved sleep. Richard has one, too, and the two of us, if observed in the wee hours, must closely resemble a mini-hive of Star Trek's Borg species. Richard, in his briefs and undershirt (a vision of loveliness), put on his Nikes and headed down to the basement, where the sump pumps normally keep things crisply dry. Uh-oh, four inches of water!

The first half of the day is a blur of misery, rain, sleet, hail, no charged-up items in the house. Three flashlights that dimmed infuriatingly quickly. No telephone, no cell phones, no oven, even our Nintendo DS(es) were dead. Plus, I am apparently pathologically unable to resist trying to turn on everything in reach that runs on electricity, repeatedly.

A horrendous crash against the house--our pine tree had shed a huge branch. More followed all over the yard, and we can only imagine what the rest of the town looks like if our yard is a barometer. My little battery TV gave the news that there was a state of emergency, with a million people electricity-free, probably for several days.

Pretty soon we got our heads around the situation and began to adapt. Molly and I lit some candles and wrapped Christmas presents. We made a big pot of chili, because the stovetop is gas! We even were able to keep warm from one room where the heating is gas. Rich was in his element experimenting with ways to use the generator to keep our fridge going---"For God's sake, don't try to turn on the bathroom light again, Alyson, you'll overload the balance!" Thanks to his shenanigans we don't have to cook and eat 5 lbs. of shrimp.

The sun began to break out, the room lit up, then dimmed with the late afternoon. Candles again. The warm, rich scent of the chili enveloped us. We found some vintage Christmas tags and had fun using them on our gifts. The cats posed pleasingly for photos, hypnotized by the warmth of the wall heater. We laughed ourselves senseless remembering lines from Saturday Night Live skits we have seen and loved.

And then the lights came on. The perfect end to this day. Here is the chili recipe.

Alyson's Chili,
adapted from Lisa's Chili
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Chili


some ground beef (anywhere from 1 to 3 lbs.)
1T cooking oil
some onions (I only had 1.5 today, anywhere up to 3 big ones is fine)
fresh garlic (I use 4 cloves), chopped fine
a bottle of beer
a cup of beef broth (or 1 beef boullion cube in 1 cup water)
a couple of cans of beans, drained and rinsed (I use pinto and red kidney)
a large can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup or so of bottled ketchup
1t jalapeno powder (Bobby Flay's), or a chopped, fresh jalapeno
1/3 cup chili powder (Chimayo is the best, if you can get it)
2T powdered cumin
1t dried coriander
1T dried oregano
salt to taste, and black pepper
1/2 cup masa harina
1 box frozen corn kernels


Brown meat, drain of fat and reserve. Saute onions in oil until translucent. Add chili powder, salt, cumin, coriander, oregano, jalapeno powder or jalepeno, garlic. Cook until spices are fragrant. Add beer, beef broth, tomatoes, beans, cooked meat, and catsup. Bring to simmer and cook one hour. Add corn. Stir masa harina into mixture slowly to avoid lumps. Adjust amount of masa depending on how thick your chili has become, and how thick you like it to end up. The masa will continue to thicken over time, so be careful or you'll end up with concrete. Turn it off and let it sit for an hour or so if you can. It improves with age. I like to eat my chili with Saltine crackers spread with grape jelly. Try it, it's good!

Stay warm; stay safe; stay patient with life's little surprises.

1 comment:

tangobaby said...

Hi Alyson,

Thanks for visiting my blog today, and I wanted to give you my support here, both for your new blog and your using the apnea machine.

My boyfriend has had one now for two, maybe three years, and it's a lot of adjustment. So many little details to learn (we figured out how to crack the code so I adjust his settings because his doctors just weren't being helpful) and I have to say that for some people, it takes a long time getting used to. But you'll figure out what works and just keep using it because it's very important for your health.

Your chili recipe sounds delicious! I'll have to give it a try someday. I just hope it never gets that cold in San Francisco! That would freak us out down here.