July 15 • 10:28 PM

'Chili' days bring warm memories

November 05, 2008
Editor's note: The following guest column was written by Rev. Rod Robertson. A native of Chicago, Robertson is an ordained minister, a Lapeer area businessman and life coach. He also is active with the Lapeer Community Theater group and his own production company, Skymanitou Productions.

I love chili! I love to make chili from scratch on a cold fall day. It just has a warmth to it that goes beyond heat.

Chili was always cooking in the Robertson house during the cold days of fall and winter. It signaled falling leaves, deer hunting and a family football game that always ended in a fight between brothers. Brothers that would almost always team against anyone foolish enough to try and break them up.

A big family is always changing. Mine was no different. I guess that's why chili time was so important. It was a stabilizing moment in our lives. Never missed and never taken for granted.

It reminds me of the relatives that would stop by on a "chili" Sunday to chat and eat my dad's smoking hot chili. He would shop for a week to get just the right tomatoes, peppers, beans and even orange peel. Never figured out the orange peel thing. You had a choice of "sweet chili" or "so hot your tail end will burn all week chili"...yes...that's what he called it, except with a bit more colorful language.

He would use this huge pot and start by putting in two cans of beer. Then he would slice the tomatoes and add tomato sauce. Tabasco sauce, onions, garlic, chili powder and peppers. He would put some water in it and twice the needed beans. (The aroma in the house before was quite different from the aroma after.) It tasted so good that more than once he had to make two full pots.

This was a Dad thing. It was his special moment in the family culinary field. He was king of the "manly" meals. I think it was the whole caveman-residual thing men have. The men took over the kitchen and the women would sit in the living room. Odd moment of course but necessary when one is creating the perfect pot of chili.

Dad always added things when he felt like it as well, so the chili never ever tasted the same. You could eat steak one time and venison the next. We did tend to watch him more carefully around chili time. Guess we wanted to be sure he hadn't come across a skunk or a possum. After the whole flying squirrel meat incident we learned to not ask what was in the chili; just enjoy it in blissful ignorance.

Funny how something so simple as a bowl or two of chili can bring a family together. Time away from television, radios, sports and others. Chili was family time where we caught up on each other's current events and lives. Another year of old stories and new being passed around as only a family can. Laughter and bad bean humor lingered in the air as we would take a few moments to be a family together in love and appreciation of each other. All because of a bowl or two of chili.

I'm waiting for the chili I have made to finish. I wish my dad was here to add his special touches. Maybe I will call him down in Arkansas and talk about old times, chili, and how the family loved those oh, too fleeting moments.

And maybe, I'll ask about the orange peels.

Email Rod at

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