Home is a special place for me. It’s a place where I don’t have to wear make-up or wash my hair. There’s no need to impress anyone or put up a pretty front: the cats don’t care and my mom and dad aren’t that picky either.
It’s a place where I always have someone to talk to when I’m angry or upset; all I have to do is pad into my parents’ room and lie down on the empty side of the bed beside my mom.
Home for me is a great big Victorian house on the main road of a rural town. It was built in the 1800’s and holds about as much history as the local museum, which happens to be just across the street.
I remember the very first day we moved in to that house. It felt so big to my nine year-old self, like I would get lost if I wasn’t careful. My parents allowed my sister and I to pick our own rooms. Of course, my sister chose the big one in the main section of the house, but I wanted something a little more unique.
Set off from the rest of the house was a narrow room with slanted ceilings and a skylight that opened up to the stars at night. It even had its own set of slender wooden stairs that led down to the kitchen: the perfect passageway for a midnight snack, or as my mom used to say, an escape route for boyfriends when I got older. It used to be the maid’s quarters when the house was built, but it became my room.
Over the years my room changed, and I changed with it. The pink walls and flowery wallpaper vanished when I turned 12, replaced by a creamy yellow that remains there today.
The lack of size and beauty in my former one-storey bungalow was certainly made up for in my new home. This house had two living rooms, one with a marble fireplace to hang my stockings from at Christmas. It had a cozy little den to watch movies in, and a kitchen with a wood stove that heated my body from the inside out, the kind of warmth you can only get from slowly burning logs.
But the best part of the house wasn’t in the house at all. Surrounding my new home were acres and acres of field and trees, and a huge yard to ride my bike in. I spent most of my childhood out there, creating forts within the shadowed enclaves of birch trees and fragrant maples. I was free there, chasing after my dog on warm summer afternoons, seeing who could get to the blueberry field faster.
It’s been four years since I moved out of that house, but it will always be my home. Whenever I go home to visit my parents, I make sure to unpack my suitcase and put all my clothes in the dresser, even if it’s only a weekend trip. There’s something unnatural about living out of a suitcase in your own home.
I went home last week for March Break and spent a whole week and a half basking in the warmth of the wood stove and the company of my mom and dad. I walked down in the field that I used to love so much, taking in the smells of the first peek at spring. I huddled in my little yellow bedroom, reading into the wee hours of the night, knowing I didn’t have to get up the next morning.
While I was home, I made my parents a batch of chili I came across in a recipe book in the clearance section of Chapters. This chili particularly caught my eye because the cookbook was for chocolate recipes, so I knew it had to be good. The cocoa powder really richens the flavour of the beef, and it smells delicious. This recipe has a lot of ingredients, but it takes less than an hour to make, and is well worth it.
large, deep saucepan or dutch oven
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 lbs ground beef
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup water
1 can kidney beans
1 can chickpeas
handful of grated cheddar cheese
Chop onions finely. In large saucepan, heat oil, then add onions. Cook, stirring often, for three minutes. Add thawed ground beef and cook until brown. Drain out any excess liquid in the saucepan and discard.
Add cocoa, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, allspice and cinnamon to saucepan and mix well. Add cans of tomatoes (undrained), tomato paste and water and heat to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
Serve topped with grated cheddar cheese and chopped onion if desired.