During Christmas weekend I was visiting my grandparents house when my grandmother decided to pull out old cookbooks. We flipped through her favorite family recipes and she told stories of where the recipes originated. But one recipe stood out the most to me. My grandfather, or “Popop” as we like to call him, used to make this incredible chili for the family growing up. It was his specialty!
I asked my grandmother if it was okay to note the recipe so I could try it at home and she said yes. It felt like the right moment to receive the recipe. My grandfather’s health was on the decline since October and it had gotten worse the week of Christmas. Each day I was home we visited trying to take in every single moment.
On December 29th, my grandfather passed away with complications of Parkinson’s Disease. My family knew it was coming but nothing ever prepares you. Judd and I were moving to South Carolina the week after and I would be hoping on a flight back home for the service. I knew in my heart the first meal I wanted to make in our new home, Popop’s Chili.
This family favorite would be our tribute to him. I have fond memories of him making this chili in my grandparent’s kitchen in this massive pot. The whole house would smell incredible. We were all impatient waiting for the chili to cook fully. In 2008 we took a trip to a cabin in the North Carolina mountains. Everyone in our family came. Popop made his famous chili and our stomachs were forever thankful.
Family recipes are passed down to loved ones in hopes that the tradition will continue. That evening in my grandparent’s dining room when I saw this recipe I just knew I had to make it. To me, Popop’s Chili is more than just a recipe, it’s a memory. It’s the familiar smell of my grandparent’s house on a “Chili” night. That sweet and savory first spoonful of chili that tantalized your taste buds was everything and more.
On Tuesday evening, I took out the recipe, gathered all my ingredients and set forth in making the greatest chili. Cooking it was special. Standing in my new kitchen, reading each step and gently mixing the ingredients in one by one…it was like he was there guiding me through it. The finished product was just as I remembered, delicious! I snapped a quick photo of it and sent it off to my grandmother with the results: it turned out perfectly!
I’ll always cherish this chili recipe and that’s why I will never share it. (Sorry all!) It’s a special recipe by an incredible man whom I call my grandfather. While the last few weeks have been tough they have also been a constant reminder to cherish every moment with each person in my life. And if you happen to find yourself face to face with a special family recipe, take the opportunity to jot it down. Give it a try even if you feel nervous about making it to family standards. The key to your success is cooking it from the heart.
Do you have a special family recipe you make that reminds you of a loved one who has since passed on? Share with us!