On Monday nights I slyly sneak out of work 10 minutes early. Once out of the lobby, I’m practically running. I plug in my ipod and pray that the public transportation gods are on my side. If everything works our perfectly, I can get from work to the Red Line to the Green Line to the F4 bus to the Prince Georges County Parkview Apartment complex in just over one hour.
Last night the bus touched down at 7 on the dot, and I jogged my way to my refugee family’s home, almost a half-mile into the sprawl of ugly 80’s style brown cinderblock apartments.
I open the door to their stairwell. Per usual, it smells warm - like a big pot of rice – not an unpleasant odor.
I knock and wait and a minute later Mustafa answers the door. He’s the 20-something uncle – no formal education and minimal English – and for 8 months was the only family member with a job. One time he got angry at my co-volunteer - he demanded she bring him a coat. That’s not how this works, she tried to explain, but he continued to insist until she just ignored him. But really, who could blame him? Other Americans his age are partying it up in college – he’s moving boxes in a refrigerated warehouse.
I spend two hours with the girls – Salha is in 4th grade and Hussna is in 7th. With Salha we do a holiday worksheet (I’ve explained Labor Day, Martin Luther King, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day), and then I ask her to write me a detailed story of her day. While she is crouched over her paper, forming English letters into words, Hussna and I read a biography of Ghandi. Reading comprehension is touch and go – she reads the words and nods her head as I explain the tricky points, but when I ask a question (So where was Gandhi born?) she just stares at the paper. I never know if she’s thinking hard, or just waiting for me to provide the answer. Which I eventually do by pointing her to the sentence in the text (Ghandi was born in Porbandar, India in 1869).
At 8:55 I turn into a pumpkin and take my leave. Of course at the last minute Jean-Claude (an unrelated high school boy who lives with them) comes at me with a stack of papers, asking about the Pepco bills that they need re-sent to the house because they forgot to save the receipt. Quickly I jot down the account number and name to call and inquire, then dash out the door.
Again I run through the apartments - to miss the bus is to wait an extra hour on a questionably safe curb in Riverdale.
By the time I get home it’s LATE. Thanks to a 20-minute wait at the first metro, and a 10-minute wait at my connection, the trip home takes over an hour and a half. By the time I finally get to my door I’m on the verge of tears – tiredhungryfrustrated.
Luckily I have leftover chili in my freezer – dinner in 2 minutes is just what I need to make the world right again.
This recipe is vegan, but if you want meat, you could easily add in ground beef or turkey with the onions. I made a huge pot then froze individual portions for easy lunches or late-night meals.
Vegan* Dark Chocolate Chili (an original Eat Run Read recipe!)
1 Tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 bell peppers (any color, I used red and orange), cut into 1/4 inch chunks
3 carrots – cut into ¼ inch chunks
1 large sweet potato - cut into ¼ inch chunks
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adust this according to how hot you like your chili)
½ teaspoon salt
1 can or ¼ cup tomato paste
1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 cups broth (No-Chicken or chicken, depending on if you want to keep it vegan)
1 ounce dark chocolate (I used 6 Trader Joe’s Semi-Sweet Callets, which are 65% cocoa)
1 can kidney beans
1 can white beans
1 can black beans
(You could also use dried beans, soaked overnight. If you do this, then add them at Step 3.)
1. In a large pot heat the oil. Add in onions and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes until they begin to turn translucent.
2. Stir in the veggies (bell peppers, carrots, sweet potato) and spices and cook uncovered stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
3. Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, broth, and chocolate. Turn the heat up and bring the chili to a boil, then turn the heat to a simmer and cover.
Simmer chili for 20 minutes.
4. Add beans and simmer for 15 more minutes.
Serve over rice or cornbread, with tortilla chips for dipping.
*It's vegan...until you add cheese...then it's just delicious!