Death by Chili

I am a good cook. I really am. That said, near death experiences with my cooking are not outcomes I aspire to.

At the time, my oldest daughter, Chloe, was about 16. She was an exceptionally beautiful girl, and I am not saying that because I am her mother. She was traffic-stopping beautiful. Tall, thin, long dark hair and dark eyes. Almost perfect features. And to be very honest, you do not necessarily want a daughter who is traffic-stopping beautiful, because you will run yourself ragged trying to keep them safe. Teenage girls do not have the best judgement, and beautiful teenage girls even less so.

When she would get a boyfriend, I would naturally want to meet them and make sure they were decent young men, and basically let them know I was not putting up with any bullshit from them. I made it VERY clear that this mama was watching them. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it did not. I have the gray hairs to prove it.

After I got divorced, I was put in the unenviable role of being both mom and dad, and this child certainly gave me a run for my sanity. (Yes, Chloe, you drove me nuts, and you know it.) You have no idea; you have absolutely no idea what this child put me through. I can only blame myself. You know, the apple does not fall from the tree.

We were living in Cranbury, NJ at the time, and Chloe had started dating Daniel.

Now Daniel was a genuinely nice young man whose family had immigrated from Poland. He was very blond, blue-eyed, so white he practically glowed in the dark … everything you would expect from a nice Polish boy. He was exceptionally polite (he got points for that), brought flowers for ME (more points), dressed nice (even more points). So, I was impressed. Too bad Daniel ended up not having a positive impression of us.

Daniel lived in the city. At the time, I was working in Manhattan at the Discovery Channel, and was commuting back and forth. Chloe had just signed a modeling contract (yeah, I said she was beautiful) so she was in and out of the city also. So. Hence. Daniel.

Chloe wanted to invite him over to the house for dinner so I could meet him, and I said okay.

She asked me to make chili. I agreed.

Now, keep in mind, we are Texans. We do not fuck around with what we call Texas Red (aka as chili). My Texas Red is freaking amazing, but it is not for the faint of heart. My kids grew up on it, so they are used to it. I grew up having jalapeno eating contests with my cousins, so gastronomically, we are tough. We can handle the heat.

My chili has won awards at local contests including the “So Hot It Makes Your Eyeballs Sweat” award and the “Don’t Drink and Drive Chili” award. (Recipe is below).

My chili is not for novices. But in my own misguided thoughts at the time, it never dawned on me that making super-hot Texas Red for a little Polish immigrant could go sideways. It went sideways. Oh man, did it go sideways.

Chloe had set the table with some of our best bowls as well as all the safety precautions and supplies. Yeah, real Texas Red requires safety precautions and supplies. Would you go camping without a First aid kit?

We had milk, crackers, rice, corn, sour cream, and cheese just in case it got too spicy for Daniel. We also had iced sweet tea which as most people from the South know is THE traditional drink at meals. But, please note, iced sweet tea DOES not help with the heat when it comes to spicy foods. You see where this is going.

We sat down, everyone scooped up their food. The girls and I dug in relishing some amazing Texas Red … as did Daniel. And then suddenly, Daniel grabs his iced tea and starts gulping. He is no longer white. He is lobster red and sweating. We are all staring in horror.


He starts grabbing everyone else’s iced tea, gulping, coughing, choking, and clutching his throat.

Chloe screams. Hilary (my youngest daughter) rolls her eyes, shakes her head and keeps eating.

I panic. I try to get him to drink milk or eat some crackers. He is staggering around the living room at this point, pulling his shirt off, getting redder and redder. I swear that I did not think a white boy could turn that red.

I thought I killed him.

I thought I was headed to prison.

I did not know how I was going to explain this to his mother.

This is after one bite. One bite. One tiny bite.

Chloe is crying and shouting, “Do we need to call an ambulance? Is he okay? Is he DYING?”

I am shouting, “Just wait! Just wait! Just wait!”

The boy is getting anaphylactic and is now pounding on his chest and breathing oh so hard.

Chloe and I finally get him to sit down, and we pour some milk down him and slowly the crisis passes. We get him to put his shirt back on, get him a cool rag for his forehead, and he lies down on the couch for about 30 minutes. His skin is blotchy, his eyes are blood shot, and he is still breathing so hard. And he says, he just wants to go home.

This is after one bite. One bite. One tiny bite. One tiny bite.

I thought I was going to prison.

So, I put him in the car and drove him to the train station stopping at the Wawa to get him a couple of bottles of milk for the trip home.

I never felt so bad in my life.

We never saw Daniel again. I asked Chloe whatever happened to him.

“I’m not dating any dude who can’t handle his chili.” was her reply.

Yeah, my daughter is a cold one. (Apple/Tree again?)

Poor Daniel. I still pray for him.

Julie’s Texas Red Recipe

· 1 lb. of coarse ground chili meat (hamburger if you cannot get it)

· 1 lb. Jimmy Dean Sausage (mild or spicy, your choice)

· Six ounces of red chili powder (two bottles)

· 1 tbs garlic powder

· Minced yellow onion

· Diced jalapeno/serrano/ghost pepper — whatever you want and however much you want. No Carolina Reaper though. Trust me. You will end up laid out on the bathroom floor crying like a two-year-old, with an icepack between your legs. Trust me. Been there. NO CAROLINA REAPER.

· Olive oil

· 32 ounces beef broth

· ¼ cup of cocoa powder

· 1 bottle Dos Equus

· 1 cup of Jack Daniels

· Salt and pepper to taste

· And if you absolutely must, you can put a can of petite diced tomatoes in, but NO BEANS! Just DO NOT TELL ME. I will lose all respect for you.

Cook the onions until they are transparent in the olive oil. Add the beef and sausage and brown thoroughly. Add the beer. Then slowly add the spices. It will get pasty. If it clumps, slowly add some of the beef broth. Stir it making sure there are no chili powder lumps. Dump in crockpot and add the broth. Cook on high for four hours or low for six hours. Then just before serving add Jack Daniels.

If it is too watery, add some roux. Serve with rice or cornbread. Also, cheese on top is good.





My story is filled with broken pieces, terrible choices, and ugly truths. It is also filled with comebacks, peace in my soul, and a grace that has saved me.

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Julie Longstreet Wehmeyer

Julie Longstreet Wehmeyer

My story is filled with broken pieces, terrible choices, and ugly truths. It is also filled with comebacks, peace in my soul, and a grace that has saved me.

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