chili and cake

Lynda was Howard Sortland’s wife.
I remember Howard better,
I think because he was especially fond of me.
I remember dancing for him
in the kitchen on Arden Avenue,
dandelion yellow cabinets behind me
as I twirled and stretched.
Howard was a big man ~ tall and broad,
with well-combed gray hair and very large gentle hands.
He’d chuckle and grin as I performed,
his huge hands on his knees,
his heart wide open to me.
I didn’t think to wonder,
basking in his delighted approval,
how many others Howard could fit in his big heart.
Arks-full as it turned out.
I can see now what a blessed and admirable talent it is
to make everyone feel native in your country.
My memory of Lynda, though more pixilated,
is short, round and full of glad greeting.
I see a small square head
(small at least compared to Howard’s)
and appealing squinty eyes.
Lynda gave mom her chili recipe when I was a baby,
and it was the only chili Howard would eat.
It is not fancy or from scratch,
just simple, savory and budget friendly.
It tastes like weekend late afternoons
and family coming over for football or golf or birthdays.
I’m making it today,
and a yellow cake with chocolate frosting for dessert,
thinking of The Sortlands, and of us,
and of so many good gatherings over chili and cake.


The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. Acts 28:2

Mom’s Basic Chili (originally from Lynda Sortland):
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 med onion, chopped
1 lg (24 oz) can tomato sauce
2 can stewed tomatoes
2 cans chili beans (pinto beans in sauce)
2 Tbs chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 drops Tabasco
2 lbs ground beef for a meatier texture
a gulp of red wine
4-6 shakes of Worcestershire

Saute onions in a couple Tbs of olive oil. Add ground beef and brown. Drain excess grease/fat from the pan. Add can of tomato sauce and one can of water (use tomato sauce can). Add stewed tomatoes and seasonings. Bring to boil, lower heat, and simmer for 45 minutes or longer on low heat, covered, stirring occasionally. Beans can be added at the beginning or last 1/2 hour of simmer.

Some possible toppings: shredded cheese (mexican blends or a sharp), sour cream, green onions chopped, crushed tortilla chips (I like blue corn).

Serve with saltines, fresh bread or corn bread.


4 thoughts on “chili and cake

  1. Lynda called you a “shameless hussy” for how you wiggled and laughed at 8 months of age when you could catch Howard’s eye. Lynda’s apple crisp was just as delish – as are these words of memories and chili.

  2. Pingback: A Good and Gentle Man | May 1st Everlasting

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