Saturday, November 23, 2013

I'm Not A Food Blogger, and Chicken Chili

Over the years, I've struggled to define my blogging genre.  I guess it's particularly hard to do so when you don't write often enough to attract a large following, but the fellow bloggers whose opinions about this I respect most call me a "general diarist."

The term would probably confuse most people who glance quickly at my blog, which is punctuated by large, more-and-less-well composed pictures of what's on my table.

The thing is: I'm not a food blogger.  I cook, and I photograph my food, but for me, food is a metaphor.  As it is, I guess, for most food writers.  Food is about relationships: with each other, with our communities, with the earth, with our bodies.  Food is history: the history of cooking and eating chronicles everything from gender norms to social movements.  Food describes things like comfort, balance, and health in ways that are more concrete than we can sometimes articulate.  When people die, when babies are born, when people are sick, we bring food.  Offerings of nourishment that mean more than words.

When I came home tonight, my son's most recent composition from school was lying on my computer, waiting to be read.  It describes the Thanksgiving he's going to have (which is actually somewhat inaccurate, because we might not have told him about our slight change in location this year,), complete with the meal he's going to eat (an interesting, and also inaccurate, variation on our usual meal, complete with pumpkin pie and corn on the cob).  Though I don't generally very much like Thanksgiving because I don't actually like the meal that most other people like, it got me thinking about how this is one time during the year in which people think just a little bit about the metaphor, about the stories that are buried in the meal: both the stories we are taught are buried in the meal, and then the stories of our own meals and their metaphors, that have nothing to do with Pilgrims or Native Americans or even turkeys, really.  They have to do with family, and tradition, and comfort, and our roles and places in the world, and what we believe is important.

We've started to hunker down again lately.  Like we do every year.  Get ready for the winter, for the cold months.  The slow cooker has come out of hibernation.  There are soups and stews and chilis.  There might be Christmas cookies.  And there will be all kinds of things that I never say, in so many words.

What are the stories on your table?

White Chicken Chili

2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 c. finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. dried oregano
1 t. ground coriander
2 4.5 oz cans chopped green chiles, undrained
1 c. light beer
2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 oz. can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2- 3 T. cornmeal
shredded Monterey Jack cheese
chopped fresh cilantro
chopped green onions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in cumin, dried oregano, and coriander; sauté 1 minute. Stir in chiles; reduce heat to low, and cook 10 minutes, partially covered. Add the chicken, water, cannellini beans, cornmeal, and broth; bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in hot sauce. Ladle 1 cup of chili into each of 8 bowls; sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons cheese, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and 1 tablespoon green onions.
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