What would you say if I told you that making chili is a lot like writing a book? I’m sort of famous for my chili (according to my family). When I decide to make chili, I get out my big yellow pot and place it on my stove. The recipe for my chili can only be found within the walls of my mind. I have never written down the ingredients that I use, but somehow it ends up tasting the same way every time. I’m pretty confident that if I blindfolded my family and gave them three different spoonfuls of chili, they would be able to pick mine out immediately. I know, right now you are saying, “Lady, get to the point.”
Think of the pot that you use as your setting. It’s the place where all of the ingredients get blended together to make something delicious. Let’s think of the ingredients as the components that make up a good story. The beans you add to the chili are like the characters within a story. A variety can be used (Eg. black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, great northern beans or navy beans). Each has a distinguished taste and provides a different flair to the chili, exactly like a character would do for a story.
The meat is what everything else sticks to. Much like a plot, it provides flavor. Without the meat or “meat analogue”, the chili or the story would leave the eater or the reader with much to be desired. No book is a good book without a meaty plot. The meat is what makes the eater or the reader shove more in.
I add a blend of spices and condiments to my chili which I view as dialogue. These spices and condiments must speak to each other to create something worth talking about. Some of the spices I use are mild and can be viewed as soft spoken (parmesan cheese). Some are spicy and outspoken (chili peppers), but I’m pretty sure they compliment each other and make the chili -aka story interesting.
The tomatoes I use are my theme. Tomatoes are my version of a hug. I want the people I am cooking for or writing for to feel embraced. I want them to know that a lot of love was put into the dinner they are about to eat or the story they are preparing to read.
My voice is the taste that allows my family to be able to pick out my chili from someone else’s. It’s the lasting impression I leave. You can teach someone how to make chili but chances are theirs will always come out different from yours.
Everything from the pot (setting), the beans (characters), the meat (plot), the spices (dialogue), the tomatoes (theme) and overall taste is what makes your pot of chili (story) your own.
What ingredients do you use that separate you from someone else?