most delicious vegan chili
Wednesday, January 19 2005
The peak of winter is always a stress test for our inventions and creations. Our well froze almost a year ago to this day, requiring a $400 housecall from a well specialist. The year before that, the battery on my pickup truck died. Today it was the Honda Civic's car battery that couldn't measure up to the conditions. Actually, it had failed on two occasions yesterday as well, and by today it was clear that a replacement was necessary. So this morning I picked up a battery from the auto parts place near the Uptown Hannaford. Once I was home, I proceeded to install it. I don't think I've ever installed a battery in weather that was any warmer than fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, and today was no exception. You'd think the guys who design the battery and the mechanisms attaching it to the car would consider this in their design. If they did, they'd make it so there would be no tools required to swap out the battery. Everything would be held together with big plastic wingnuts that could be turned by a gloved hand. But no, replacing a battery on a Honda Civic requires the use of at least two different sizes of socket wrench. To get those nuts off the terminals themselves is nearly impossible without a socket wrench. In the case of the positive terminal, it was completely impossible with any tool in the known universe; corrosion had welded all the metal on the terminal together and then covered it with a poisonous white powder. I managed to slip the terminal wire off the battery terminal anyway, but it will never again connect as firmly as it should. Not that it really matters; on my old Dodge Dart the wires could be easily lifted off the batteries. Occasionally the Dart wouldn't start and I'd have to make an adjustment, but it was never much of a hassle.
While in Woodstock this afternoon I picked up a few things for tonight's party: a variety of fresh vegetables, a bunch of purple tulips, and all natural juices compatible with vodka. By the time I'd made it home I'd decided that the main contribution I'd be making to tonight's festivities would be a huge pot of vegan chili. I'd actually been entertaining the idea of making a non-vegan alternative to all the vegan food that would almost certainly be coming, but chili is just so great in its vegan form. Furthermore, it was perfect weather for chili. It had warmed up from the single digits to the low twenties, but it had also begun to snow.
So at a certain point in the early evening I put together the most delicious vegan chili imaginable. First I fried up a packet of tempeh until it was golden brown and then added soy sauce to give it a salty, meaty flavor. Then I added a shitload of onions and mushrooms, which eventually cooked down to a wonderfully slimy goo. Meanwhile I'd made a double batch of a kind of vegetarian chili mix Gretchen buys at the High Falls Co-op and added 58 ounces of black beans. Then I added the tempeh, onion, and mushroom stir fry. Finally I lightly fried a chopped red bell pepper with garlic and then mixed it in. I half expected it to be rejected by the vegans for its perceived meat content, but that didn't turn out to be a problem.
Some people called to cancel due to the weather, but the turnout ended up being pretty good anyway. Most of the people were vegans or otherwise connected to animal rights, though we also had both of our Tillson friends, one of our non-vegan Buddhist friends from Rosendale, one of Gretchen's closest Oberlin friends, and Tony, one of the guys Gretchen works for. We also had two additional dogs: Murphy, the overweight Catskill Animal Sanctuary pooch, and Pitunia, whom Gretchen had brought home from the Ulster County SPCA for the night as a temporary birthday present for herself.
The main problem with our new vegan friends is that, left on their own, they mostly just talk about animal rights issues. Personally, I've never much enjoyed conversations about animal rights because there seems to be so little that needs to be discussed. The arguments have all been made, but I'll probably never stop eating cheese or the occasional chicken drumstick. Yet I still believe in their cause, at least until it veers into the absurd, and I'm even willing to help them in ways that plenty of observant vegans are not. All I ask is that we occasionally talk about something else.
Inevitably Vegan Jenny told the story of how she came to have her cancerous right foot amputated, and then she proceeded to demonstrate her artifical limb, which had cost $28,000. For its lack of bionic capabilities, it certainly made a respectable ding on a six million dollar budget.
The birthday cake had been made by one of the Hill 99 vegans. For a vegan cake, it was delicious, or so Gretchen reported. I didn't know; I kept my diet restricted to wine and chili.
I should mention at this point that the only alcohol drunk by anyone tonight was wine (mostly brought by guests); I'd bought both beer and booze but there was never any reason to tap into either.
Both of tonight's vegan women brought mix CDs as birthday presents, though they weren't really in keeping with Gretchen's core musical interest (black women and Stevie Wonder, with the occasional bluegrass or heavy metal ballad). At one point we were listening to the one made by one of the Hill 99 vegans and Jenny commented that it sounded like Stereolab. "No," said the Hill 99 vegan. "But are they French?" I asked. This seemed to impress Jenny, since it indicated that I was familiar with Stereolab. But even more impressive was my knowledge of the Red House Painters, though I only really know them through their cover of Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs."
One last bit of non-animal-rights-related discussion concerned the other Hill 99 vegan's computer. From his description of its behavior, it sounded like it suffered from a mild spyware problem. The guy was using AOL, but when he said he'd had the same address since 1990 I sort of understood why he was hanging on to it. As I was talking to him, I had a laptop in my lap and I was pasting helpful links into an email I would be sending to him so that tomorrow he could take some measures to improve his situation. Foremost among these was the use of Firefox.
Kathy (the Catskill Animal Sanctuary founder) and Jenny the vegan.
The chili I made. I didn't realize someone had brought a little cheese to de-veganize it with.
Mr. Tillson makes "the face" (it's a West Virginia thing) while the Rosendale Buddhist looks on.
Gretchen with her crown, made by our Rosendale Buddhist friend. I'm on the left and a photogenic Hill 99 vegan is on the right.
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