I cracked open a can of Trader Joe’s chili, and it got me excited about traditions.
See, Trader Joe’s vegetarian chili is thick. It has (fake) ground meat. It has beans. But it does not have any other fussy bullshit, like large pieces of bell pepper or giant chunks of tomato. It looks just like the chili Ma Mason used to make.
Ma Mason was the matriarch of a family that lived across the street from my grandma when I was a kid. She would cook a vat of chili every Sunday. You could come any time from about 11 am until the early evening and fix yourself a bowl.
I’m 40 years old and still compare every chili to Ma Mason’s chili. And because this TJ’s version looks so similar, it got me thinking about what other traditions—like making chili every Sunday for decades—I maintain in my life.
Need a chili recipe that says it’s “basic, without any odd ingredients,” click here.
Traditions are kinda my “thing”
We have several traditions in our household, mostly because I’m nervous by nature and don’t love change. (You down with pre-planning? Yeah, you know me!)
Every year we throw a small Halloween party for my son’s birthday. His actual birthday is on October 31, so we act like the whole city is celebrating. It’s pretty much the greatest party of all time because people come and go, there’s no structure, and it feels ultra festive with very little effort.
Fourth of July
We’ve also started planning annual Fourth of July trips. Last year, we stayed in a schmancy hotel in Tahoe. It was scenic and relaxing(ish). Next year, we’re shacking up with friends in a cabin in Minnesota. Lucky for them, I made the VERY HELPFUL suggestion that we all participate in a talent show. You know, showcase our particular family talents, like guitar playing or juggling.
SPOILER ALERT: Our talent is lip syncing to horrible songs like Hey Oh by the Red Hot Chili Peppers while pretending to play toy instruments. The trip is only 8 months away (!!!), so I’ve been making the boys practice. TEN THOUSAND HOURS!
Click here for a list of 37 traditions American’s uphold that confuse the rest of the world. I’ve pretty much done them all. (LOL–laughing out loud is an American thing.)
Super Supper Club
Probably our most important and defining tradition is our weekly dinner at a local ale house. The staff knows our order by heart, understands that soda water is called “tickle water” by our children, and really gets that we need fries straight out the gate. We talk to our fellow diners…and then annoy them by being super loud. Our kids ask people to dance in the aisles (true story: one woman ditched her date to join my then 3-year-old son in a most embarrassing dance-off, while simultaneously showing all that is good with humanity). We’ve even joined forces with another family to create a giant communal table of fun.
Back to the future
As for future traditions, my goal is to have more of them. I like to know what’s coming. And I want to be like Ma Mason—a woman the whole neighborhood can count on to never waver. I can’t cook for shit, so making chili is not an option. But I can still hold it down and be the person my family and friends count on to show up and keep things consistent(ly weird).