My soon-to-be in-laws were in town from Kentucky last week. We also had our housewarming last weekend and many of our wonderful friends and co-workers came through with family in tow from three in the afternoon to three in the morning.

In order to feed everyone we decided to make a big pot of chili  – Cincinnati style. My soon-to-be father-in-law Paul, always willing to lend a helping hand volunteered to take on this humongous task.

Generally, I have trouble letting other people cook in my kitchen. I tend to think that there is a way to do things, a process to get the best out of the ingredients and that straying from that process is sacrilege –

For example, I once got into an argument with a friend of mine, over a pork chop. I insisted that every pork chop had a temperature at which it was at its peak, that lower than that golden zone, or higher, resulted in less than perfection. And that our job as cooks was to find and release that potential. My buddy disagreed. He liked his pork chops well done – like his steaks, and to him they were perfect. No manner of argument or even taste testing could sway him. Albeit he was a stubborn man, but I finally relented and let him enjoy his hockey puck.

So, when I watched Paul pile a mound of ground beef into two luke-warm pots, I had to go downstairs, or into the living room, or out on the porch. I paced, I made excuses, I tapped the keg.

But after a while I came back, and had a peak under the lid and what I saw was  – well, it was chili. Not chili like I’m used to – mostly beans with peppers, onions, tomatoes and ground pork and beef bouncing between – but real southern-style ground beef-driven chili that after a taste or two, a bowl or two, I realized was great. No, it was awesome. Everybody loved it and raved about it and Paul, in his way, took quiet credit, as if it was nothing.

What I learned from Paul, was that the process doesn’t need to be perfect, that following exact steps to meet a specific result was less important than the result itself. So goes the saying – ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’. Not that I’m into skinning cats (seriously that is weird, but I get the point), but process isn’t everything.

So what should you take – if you dare to take anything at all – from these incoherent ramblings? Don’t worry about the recipe, don’t worry about the steps, or to an extent, even the ingredients. If you have a clear picture of what you want, of the the flavors and balances your interested in, just go for it. And don’t listen to the perfectionists, the kitchen mosquitoes and backseat chefs, just cook, have fun and enjoy yourself. It’ll come out in your cooking and in the smiles around the table.

Next week – Squash-o-rama! Squash and Carrot soup.

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