Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sea Cruise - My Favorite Chili

Port Canaveral and the Carnival Dream.  That's one.big.ship. And this is one big ear worm:

Old Man Rhythm is in my shoes
It's no use sittin' and singing the blues
So be my guest, you got nothin' to lose
Won't you let me take you on a
Sea cruise

Ooh wee, ooh wee baby
Ooh wee, ooh wee baby
Ooh wee, ooh wee baby
Won't you let me take you on a
Sea cruise

In my mind, I'd already planned past Thanksgiving, and the Pioneer Woman's Turkey Tetrazzini stands out as one I have to try. Great use of leftovers.  But then my mind skips to chili,  a big pot of the stuff, earthy, beany, meaty.  My original, best of the best recipe.  And maybe curry goat.  Have to think a little more about that last one.

My reason for the preplanning in the middle of the biggest food production of the year has to do with the wonderful fact that Rob and I are going on an 8-day cruise, shortly after Thanksgiving, and Cory will be holding down the fort, taking care of home, hearth, and hounds.  A man's gotta eat, and although he will always be my little boy, Cory is a man.

While it is true that he can cook, man cannot live on gussied-up ramen noodles, shrimp quesadillas, and corn casserole alone.  Besides, it is truly my pleasure to cook and fill up the refrigerator with a variety of dishes to keep him eating while we are gone.  He needs to keep up his strength, because taking care of our ferocious dogs is no easy job.

Eight days on a cruise ship is a new experience for us.  We were on a 7-day, once, and I think a 6-day, but the vast majority of our cruises have been 4 or 5 days.  So we are embarking on a brand new adventure on a brand new ship.  Since almost all of our cruises have been on the Carnival Ecstasy and her twin, the Carnival Sensation, this is going to be a big change.  Much bigger ship, many more amenities.   

"Three football fields long, Carnival Sunshine offers plenty of space for everyone. Passengers onboard this Fun Ship enjoy two-level dining halls, a two-tiered dance club, a three-story show lounge, and four pools (including one just for kids)--plus a pretty wild waterslide. And, the ship's nine-story glass-domed atrium provides a unique place to meet friends or enjoy a quick drink while listening to live music."  Be still my heart!

That doesn't mean I don't love the Ecstasy.  We were on that ship so many times, the maitre d' knew us by name.  For years, that was our "home" ship, sailing out of practically-next-door Port Canaveral. When she was re-homed to Miami, I was beyond saddened.  We even had our own stateroom on that ship, and our own outdoor table on the Lido deck, where we sat for hours after breakfast, reading, knitting, and imbibing alcoholic beverages.  For us, the Carnival Ecstasy was small and intimate and wonderfully familiar, which also made a 5-day cruise incredibly relaxing.  We generally stayed on the ship - how many times can you take a tour bus around Nassau or Freeport? - and I would look forward to a deep tissue massage and a Cosmopolitan or two.

Speaking of Cosmopolitans and the woman who introduced them to me, I know I mentioned a little while back that the idea for our first cruise was initiated by my friend Bethe.  This was  Thanksgiving 2001, and back in the day when staying home for the holiday was not a comfortable option.  It was also just two months after the World Trade bombings, and no one was stepping voluntarily onto a commercial flight airplane.  The cruise was perfect, and we were hooked.
Bethe was one of those friends I found, after a 30 year hiatus, on the Internet.  This was pre Facebook days, but I was still able to track her down following a link to the Far Rockaway High School alumni website.  We reconnected seamlessly, as though no time had lapsed since our first meeting as candy stripers assigned to the women's ward on the second floor at St. Joseph's Hospital, back in 1968.  Our husbands were suitably impressed.
So we had enormous fun on that cruise, and on another cruise the following Thanksgiving, aboard the Norwegian Majesty.  After that, she introduced us to the marvels of European travel, which meant we had to get passports for the very first time. When Rob and I renewed our passports this month, I wanted to call her up to tell her, but of course, I couldn't.  I miss her all the time since that terrible day in February 2013, but I am grateful for those additional years we did have together.

When we first started traveling together, Cory was 13 and Phillip, her youngest at home, was around 11 years old.  We would bunk the boys together, while we grown ups enjoyed our own staterooms.  Even before we lost Bethe, (such an odd phrase, by the way. "Losing" her always makes me feel like I forgot her when I stepped off of a Venetian vaporetto in 2004, and she's been shuttling around ever since) the boys were way past that whole room sharing thing.  Mom and Dad have been officially on their own ever since. (Wait, did I really just say I left my oldest friend on a water bus in Venice, Italy? That reminds me of a silly song and a lovely photo.)

Lovely photo - oh, how I miss them both!

The song's lyrics tell of Charlie, a man who boards a Boston MTA subway car, but then cannot get off because he does not have enough money for new "exit fares". These additional charges (ironically, like the extra token that used to be required to exit at Beach 25th Street in Far Rockaway, Bethe's home station) had been established to collect an increased fare without replacing existing fare collection equipment.  Of course, if given a choice to get stuck on a Venetian vaporetto, or the 8th Avenue "A" train, I would overcome my distaste of flying and grab a flight to Italy.

Although I can see how someone might get confused ...

The sign similarity is  downright eerie ...

Although the mode of transportation makes it crystal clear as to what side of the pond we're on.

Oh, did he ever return?
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned (poor old Charlie!)
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.

My Favorite Chili Recipe
4 large onions, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves, crumbled
2 pounds ground sirloin
½ cup chili powder
1- 28 ounce can tomatoes, undrained
3- 20 ounce cans light red kidney beans, undrained
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon crushed hot chili peppers
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauté onions and garlic in the oil in a large heavy kettle over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes until golden.  Add oregano, bay leaves, and the ground sirloin and sauté, breaking up meat, 10 minutes until beef is no longer pink.  You shouldn’t have excess fat to drain off if you used the sirloin or another lean ground beef.  Add ¼ cup of the chili powder, the tomatoes, two cans of the kidney beans, and simmer, uncovered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, 1 ½ hours.  Add the remaining chili powder and kidney beans along with the salt, vinegar, red peppers and black pepper.  Simmer, stirring, 15 minutes longer.  Taste to adjust the seasoning.  This is one of those dishes that tastes best the next day.  Serve with macaroni and cheese.

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