I grew up one block from Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers.
When I tell people who are from big cities this fact (especially big cities with football or baseball teams), they assume I am exaggerating. That by "one block," I probably mean within one zipcode, or one city, or one neighborhood or maaayyyybbbeee one mile.
But nope. None of those things. I truly lived one block from Lambeau, as it is surrounded by neighborhoods, and mine created the southern border of the property. I didn't realize just how unusual having a stadium neighborhood was until I grew up and went to college.
I didn't realize how lucky I was-- and just how magical this aspect of my childhood was-- until I moved back to my hometown after I went away for college.
Growing up in the Shadow of Lambeau meant friends parking their cars on the yard, airplanes trailing banner advertisements (or marriage proposals! Oh how my sister and I dreamed of a marriage proposal flying over a Packer game for all to see), and in my house, my Dad's infamous chili parties.
The chili and the parties were each infamous in their own rights. Each Fall, my sister and I would hang out on the porch, watching and waiting for my parent's friends to walk over after the game for these parties. Upon spying each guest, we would stick out head in the door and yell to our parents, "So and so are here!" In Fall, it was an easy task.
Winter proved much more challenging. Each Winter game, Stephanie and I would stand at the living room window, and watch as unknown souls decked head to toe in flame orange snowmobile suits, and green and gold baklavas, lumber through huge amounts of snow in approach to our house. "Someone's here!" was all we could holler, as we simply could not ascertain any true identity until those layers of winter protection were shed in the foyer.
Well, we couldn't for anyone except my Dad's friend "Turkey." We always knew who Turkey was because he would gobble upon entering our home, which honest to God sounded JUST like a real turkey. We kids would shriek with laughter, and as such, Turkey was always the most anticipated arrival at each chili party.
If you have ever been to a cold weather Packer game, you know that "Fair Weather Fan" is a concept simply not comprehensible to children growing up in Green Bay. The Packers completely stunk for the first two decades of my life, and we loooooovvvveeed them no matter the weather, selling out every seat in every game no matter the weather, and having a season tickets wait list two generations long.
In fact, "fair weather fan" was not a phrase I heard of until I lived in Washington State, where every time the Seahawks sucked, the city discussed selling the team. Once, when living out there, I went to a Packer-Seahawks game in Seattle, and there was more Green and Gold than Blue and Green. Even my boyfriend, who grew up in Washington, wore a Cheesehead to the game.
That simply does not happen in Green Bay, people. Never did, and likely never will.
Yet, I digress. There was a lot I didn't learn until I went to college.
But back to the chili:
My Dad had obtained his chili recipe from a prominent restauranteur in the area, as partial payment for a divorce that my dad handled.
It was a brilliant trade, as the chili is perfection in a bowl.
Not a soup, this chili is a beef topping that you put on buttered spaghetti noodles. A deep, complex flavor, you feel the heat in your ears when you eat it.
The dark red kidney beans are served, heated, on the side, or else that flavor would interfere with the intensity of the beef. Pour a large glass of milk, top the chili with malt vingear, beans and shock absorbers, and enjoy the clearing of your sinuses.
Go Spicy, or Go Home.
That is the chili of my childhood. The fact that many people in my region of the world consider ketchup to
be a spice? I didn't know that either, until I moved back after
college. I just thought everyone ate this sort of heat on Sunday basis.
And the soup concoctions often referred to as 'chilli?' I never knew about that sloppy stuff until college.
You know what else I didn't learn until college? That no one else knew of these magnificent heat-absorbing magical "Shock Absorbers."
Sadly, the rest of the world knew of:
Oyster crackers. What a grody name.
Huh. Yet another thing I didn't learn until I had to grocery shop on my own.
Today, I'm having a post-game chili party of my own. So similar to those that my parent's had in my youth, we are serving up chili and celebrating our life here, even with the Packers stinking it up big time this season. We still love 'em, and we'll still party it up. With my dad's recipe. And shock absorbers. And my brother and sister and children.
And you know what else? My kids don't know of these things called Oyster Crackers either. Because in my home, they forever are and forever will be referred to as Shock Absorbers.
I'm not going to burst their bubble. They can learn that nugget of truth on their own, when they're in college, just like I did.