Monday, December 31, 2018

Dinner for 18

It all started a few days ago when Angie informed me that Simone and Flo would be coming over on New Year's Eve. The next day, Angie was on the phone with Katherina.

'Sure, you guys can come over. Lauri can also spend the night.'

The next night was quiz night, and Kristina spontaneously needed an alternative plan for New Year's Eve. Angie came to her rescue. 

The day after that, we went to dinner with Tobi and Erica, who are visiting from the States. On the way to the restaurant, Tobi asked a question disguised as another question.

'So, Steve, are you guys making chili again this year?'

'Yes, Tobi, we would love if you and Erica could join us on New Year's Eve.'

And that's the funny story about how I voluntarily ended up making chili for 18 humans on New Year's Eve. The recipe I use is one that my dad handed down years ago. It actually won 1st place in a Virginia chili contest in 1981. My dad even named it - 'SHIT HOT CHILI'. Over the years, I have scaled up and adapted the recipe to accommodate nine people, which is our normal guest quota. I included the recipe for 9 people at the end of this blog. If you ever find yourself needing to make it for 18 people, just double everything and your 'before' picture should look something like this.

Despite fully justified assumptions, the beer and Tequila are not for the cook - they are the secret ingredients. Ok, full disclosure - the recipe was conceived when my dad was still drinking like the sailor he was at the time so it may not be needed at all. I wouldn't know - I've never been brave enough to stray from the original recipe. I photocopied this original recipe many years ago. It was covered in grease stains, sweat and comments written by my dad in all caps, his go-to writing style. One of them stood out for me.

October 4th, 1981

I think about that every year that I make this recipe. Angie and I often get caught up in the chaos of raising kids. Every now and then we get a moment to ourselves and I'd like to think that we cherish those kid-less moments together like my parents did so many decades ago. None of that shit happened on New Year's Day, though. I was busy kicking Angie's ass out of the kitchen so I could make 3 pots of SHIT HOT CHILI.

It's not a party at the Johnson's Zoo until the police show up or someone breaks something. While I was adding the SHIT to SHIT HOT CHILI, Peter decided to try breaking his foot by launching a Kung Fu Panda move in the hallway. The good news is, he did not break his ankle as we initially thought. The bad news is that his overly muscular dad snapped a few shots of him being carried to the sofa by his mamma, who is now shorter than him. When the hell did that happen?   

Peter tends to over-nurse his injuries, but when Tobi and Erica showed up with bags of sweets from the U.S. of A., Hop-along Pete rose to the occasion and secured his place as the primary gift-receiver.

At first, I was fully on board with Tobi's plan to bribe our kids into loving him. That was before the sugar snacks were distributed to the greedy masses. Talk about your all-time backfires. 

Being the wise parents that we sometimes are, we timed the sugar high perfectly so that the low came crashing down just before it was time for our yearly 'Dinner for One' showing. For those of you that have not heard of it, it is a comedy skit making fun of the Brits that has somehow become a standard New Year's Eve show that every self-respecting German family must watch. No British person that I know has ever admitted to hearing about or seeing the show, but that's besides the point. Roll the film!

A weird coincidence - 'Dinner for One' has a run-time of, you guessed it, 18 minutes. After almost twenty minutes of border-line silence, it was time to prep for blowing shit up. I assigned the work package of filling refillable lighters to two of the few remaining sober adults.

After another twenty minutes of border-line contemplation, we were ready to get our crackers on. We loudly made our way down to the park in front of the City Hall building at the end of our street. Shortly before midnight, I looked over and caught Peter stuffing his face with rockets. I of course whipped out my camera but I was too late.

'Ah, come on, Peter. One shot'

'Ok, but don't get my teeth.'

'Um,...Weird, but ok.'

Feel free to zoom in on the picture and let me know in the comments if you see any teeth. I won't tell Peter though - he seems to be a tad self-conscious about his grill.  

A few minutes later, the clock struck twelve and all hell broke loose. It was Matti's first New Year's with the Zoo and I don't think he was prepared for just how loud it gets downtown. He raced across the street and took shelter under the City Hall awning until it was all over.

The rest of the fireworks blowout went as it normally does with one exception. Peter and David discovered that if you drop fireworks in the sewer, it make a very loud explosion. Matti was not impressed. 

To anyone that lives across the street from City Hall that had their water pipes inexplicably burst on New Year's Eve: 'um, ... sorry 'bout that.'

As soon as the smoke cleared, it was clear that Matti was having no part of joining us for the after fireworks party. We also lost Kristina who was off to celebrate Johannes' birthday at Vater Rhein's, the best place downtown to get a mean bowl of spaghetti at 2 o'clock in the morning (so I've heard). And then there was thirteen.  

The hour after fireworks is typically wasted trying to explain to adrenaline-pumped post-generation Z types why they need to go to bed. I give Peter points for trying a new approach this year.

'But I'm taller than Mom!'

'You're right. Angie - time for bed!'

Angie laughed a little too loudly. Peter sighed defiantly and raised his hands in the air. I then reminded Peter of the family rule that children cannot ignore their parents even if said parents occasionally ignore each other. Okay, it's more than just occasional and that exception only tends to work in one direction, but that's not the point. GO TO BED!!

The whole 'veins popping' trick always worked with my dad and I thank him each year for teaching me that trick at an early age.

After an involuntary rendition of 'So Long, Farewell', the von Trapp kids retired to their sleeping quarters to continue on with rather loud activities that bore no resemblance whatsoever to anything remotely related to sleeping. But, hey! Their door was shut.

I'm sure that in one of Sebastian's previous lives he was a high-ranking official of the Star Trek Fleet Command, but in another life, I'm quite confident that he was a bartender specialized in making gin and tonic's for ladies who had already consumed copious amounts of Champagne. Move over, Brian Flanagan.   

Two and half gin tonics later, someone asked Simone to get half naked so that we could check out one of her tattoos. She found this funny.     

Three gin and tonics later, Angie yanked on one of the left-over Christmas crackers and proudly displayed what she started calling a dog-horse.

After grinning like the village Trump for almost a minute, Angie started making what I can only hope she thought were dog-horse noises. I've never heard a dog-horse but I can state confidently that they do not sound anything like what was coming out of Angie's mouth. 

Needless to write, the night was involuntarily winding down. Even Simba knew it was time to find his human warm bottle, also known as Simonelina. 

Simone was the domino piece. She toppled, followed by Angie. Sarah went home. Sebastian and I stayed up and took pictures of marquee signs made by wild animals that only make sense to the inner circle of The Johnson's Zoo. Frono!

3 Kg Ground Beef
4 Steaks (cooked)
2 green pepper
2 red pepper
3 medium onions
6 celery stalks
6 cloves garlic
3 cans peeled tomatoes (400 g)
5 boxes tomato sauce (500 g)
2 tube tomato paste
3 bay leaves
1 TBSP garlic salt
2 TBSP parsley
3 TBSP Oregano
1/2 jar jalapeno peppers
2 Habanero peppers (diced)
1 TBSP Tabasco sauce
1 TBSP Cumin
1 TBSP Cayenne Pepper
2 TBSP Chili Powder
1/2 Beer
8 cl Tequila (4 shots)
3 cans kidney beans

Cook steaks - 4 minutes per side on medium-high heat. Cut into tiny pieces. Brown and drain ground beef. Add to a pot. All other ingredients go into a blender. Throw everything into a big-ass pot and let simmer for 3 hours, uncovered. After 3 hours, add the kidney beans (with juice) - cook for one more hour. Enjoy!
Ladder Talk: [We were lucky enough to get the animals locked in their room - there was no way in hell I was going in to try and do Ladder Talk]
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ....
David: zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ....
Tom: zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ....

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ....
David: zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ....
Tom: zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ....

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ....
David: zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ....
Tom: zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ....