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Prompted By Super Bowl

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Let’s stick to basics: The Super Bowl is a football game. Full stop.  I am amazed at the social phenomenon it has developed since 1969.*  To me it’s only about the game itself.  I am a Serious Football Viewer.  I dislike distractions.  I. Watch. The. Game.  Alone.  Never been to a Super Bowl party and never will.  My Super Bowl enjoyment is personal.  And solitary.  And it doesn’t matter if the New York Giants, my team, are not playing. But if the Giants are in the Super Bowl? Fuhgeddaboutit.

I served a generous portion, grated sharp cheddar on top, and plunged my fork in to discover . . . chunky bean soup. Zero alarm. A fire retardant.

I should say “almost only about the game itself”.  Super Bowl Sunday is Chili Sunday.  Like many traditions, perhaps, this began as happenstance.  The year I rented in Lake Placid my now ex-wife made chili on Super Bowl Sunday.  And it was good.  In January 2011, just after our split and my relocation to the Hudson Valley, I decided that I would make chili for Super Bowl Sunday.  Being an aficionado of the slow cooker, I naturally thought that it would excel for the long, slow cooking that chili requires.  Finding a recipe online was no problem.  The one that had won a contest in Texas seemed a good bet.  After all, is there better chili anywhere else?

An aside: I like my chili hot.  Spicy foods present no issues for me.  When I lived in southeastern Connecticut I frequented a Lebanese restaurant operated by a family that had lived in Liberia for several years before emigrating to the United States.  One of their specialties was Liberian pepper pot soup.  Delicious. And hot enough to generate perspiration on my scalp, which has become my benchmark.  If a spicy food, like chili, fails to make me sweat it is irrevocably mediocre.

The recipe I found included a comments section.  Quite a number of posts warned that the recipe was quite spicy, and several cooks talked of scaling back the chili powder and spices.  I took that as a good omen, and I just stuck to the recipe as written.  As you know, one of the great things about slow cooking is that the pot generates wonderful aromas for hours while cooking proceeds.  My first slow cooker chili did not disappoint in that regard.  Finally, at the appointed time, a half hour before kickoff**, it was ready.  I served a generous portion, grated sharp cheddar on top, and plunged my fork in to discover . . . chunky bean soup.  Zero alarm.  A fire retardant.  What a disappointment.  I spiced up the leftovers but it was not the same.

Over the years I have refined the recipe to my taste and tolerance.  Learned to check once or twice during the cooking process to adjust*** the spices.  And it has gotten better and better.

This Sunday marks the tenth year of my Super Bowl chili.  I think I’m entitled to call it mine now.  I have laid in my stock of chili powder, cumin and cayenne red pepper in quantity and added a goodly supply of jalapenos.  And this Sunday I’ll enjoy my spicy concoction.  With corn bread on the side.  And a handkerchief at hand to mop my brow.

– – – –

* Yes, I mean 1969.  That was the year the Jets won Super Bowl III.  What are now called Super Bowls I and II were not so named when played. They were just known as the NFL-AFL Championship.  The first of the two, played in 1967 and now known as Super Bowl I, raises a curiosity.  If from the outset these games were known as “Super Bowls”, then would not the first just be “Super Bowl”?  Isn’t the first Stallone Rocky Balboa film “Rocky”, not “Rocky I”?

** I don’t mix eating and watching.  I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and I move on to the next.  Football watching is Serious Business, as aforesaid.

*** “Adjust” = add still more fire.

Profile photo of Tom Steenburg Tom Steenburg
Retired attorney and investment management executive. I believe in life, liberty with accountability and the relentless pursuit of whimsy.

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Good story, Tom! My favorite part is the **. And, you’ve inspired me to start a new tradition and make “my” chili tomorrow — in addition to copious measures of the spices you mentioned, my secret ingredient is mixing in some chorizo to equal parts ground beef and ground pork. Vegan schmeegan.

    • Thank you, Barbara. It’s not original, however. It’s a line from the TV series M*A*S*H spoken by Charles Winchester when he first arrives and his colleagues urge him to be quicker in the OR.
      By all means start your new tradition! I agree, vegan schmeegan. Your secret ingredient sounds a bit like the Italian Sunday Gravy I make. Meats, tomatoes, spices and whatever else is handy.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Thank you for giving us background and information about your viewing and eating habits, both of which are SERIOUS! And one at a time. I am finding increasingly that I can’t tolerate spicy food, so started reacting viscerally just reading about the items you put in chili, but hey, more power to you! Enjoy both tomorrow.

  3. Marian says:

    I really relate to your solitary time with the Super Bowl, Tom (although my stomach wouldn’t tolerate the chili). We stopped going to Super Bowl parties a few years ago when people were yakking so much that we couldn’t hear the game. Rather like going out to the movies these days, which I rarely do for the same reason.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Tom, you do take your football seriously. My husband used to be the same and we could gauge the level of excitement by how much he sat up or, if necessary, stood. He’s mellowed a bit in recent years and will even record a game for later viewing (if his team won) and go to, say, a movie. As for your chili, sadly I can no longer partake in such spicy dishes, but I hope you enjoy yours, and The Game as well.

  5. Suzy says:

    I love this story, Tom, and am happy to know about your eating and viewing habits. I like to eat while I’m watching TV, it makes me feel like I’m doing something productive with my time. But then again, since you are Serious with a capital S about your football, you probably think it IS productive. I like spicy food, but not if it is hot enough to make me sweat, so I probably would not be able to handle your chili. Am I correct in thinking that your significant other does not watch – or eat – with you?

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Great story, Tom. But I think you’ve really created a mis-direction play here. First you claim that, as a football fan, you only care about the game. Got it. As a fellow guy, I empathize, even if I am not quite so devout.

    But then it turns out that you are also writing about your chili cooking adventures and, indeed, your love for hot foods generally. And this is a terrific, mouth-watering story itself, even if my own taste buds are not, like yours, cranked up to 11 for spicy foods. (Mine stop around 6.)

    Finally, you note that proper football watching cannot involve multi-tasking, like eating. I would therefore welcome your thoughts on the invidious practice of the NFL over the years to gradually move the Super Bowl from its original, God-intended mid-afternoon time to its current 6:30 (Eastern) kick-off, so as to enable the televising network to crush all others in prime time ratings and allow for hours upon hours of pre-pre-pre-game shows, with attendant advertising revenues. I view this as a complete sell-out to commercial interests — though, what could be ore American than that, as I consider it. But, more to the specific point, how do you reconcile a dinner-time kick-off with your no eating policy? Please discuss. Bonus points will be awarded for particularly juicy points. Or extra points.

    • So much to unpack here. Yes, I decry the delayed start to the damn game. Geez. 6:30 EST? Great if you watch in Honolulu. I recall that the first of these started at 4pm. And as for handling eating and watching? Easy peasy. This year’s palindromic edition of my Super Bowl chili will be ready at 5:50. Plenty of time to eat, and not being at all interested in the halftime shows, plenty of time then to clean up.
      And yes, it’s true that my taste buds are Spinal Tapish and go all the way to 11.
      And misdirection? You ain’t seen nothing. It’s a 49er specialty especially with fullback Kyle Juszczyk, Mr. Consonant, Harvard ’13.

  7. Tom, I love a man who loves to cooks, this from a woman who doesn’t! But chili in a slow cooker can’t be too hard, maybe I’ll ask for your recipe next year!

    Hope your team wins tonight!

    • Thanks, Dana. Insight at an early age: I love to eat so learning to cook was a no-brainer. And yes, slow cooker cooking is pretty straight forward. But the chili prep time is about an hour. Not complicated, just time consuming. And yesterday’s edition passed the sweat test.
      And while I didn’t really have a team yesterday I was rooting for San Francisco, which came up short. But I’m pleased to have foretold the success of the SF fullback, Kyle Juszczyk in my reply to John, below. He scored their first touchdown and almost scored again.

  8. You’ve successfully made the connection about what has always been apparent to me: Super Bowl parties are more about the food than the game! Great writing!

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