I believed that I would be married at 18, based on vague assurances promulgated within my circles that good homeschooled girls were always snapped up off the market as soon as they were of legal age, and so when 19 rolled around and I was utterly single, it was a bafflement to my soul. I shipped myself off to a paramilitary disaster relief program in Texas, run by the homeschool group in which I was raised.
Now, don’t get me wrong for one minute: I wasn’t going through the program myself – even if women had been accepted into the program, my stamina and level of interest in the outdoors have always been unremarkable. No, I was a, “Staff Girl,” – an unpaid utility player – who cleaned toilets and made beds, and worked in hospitality, and cleaned floors, and threw receptions, and cooked in a vast, metallic kitchen.
The program had a reputation for being Good Husband Country, and I think everybody was hoping that I would come back with a romantic prospect or two, and accordingly I found myself in a very awkward non-relationship with an equally-young fledgling, Ross, who had the potential to be handsome once he grew up, and with whom I corresponded in mostly homeschooler-esque ways: smiles in hallways, watching my feet significantly whenever he came into a room, and—well, little else, aside from a flood of sincere prayers to the Almighty that He would arrange for us a courtship. Thank God it did not happen, because Ross morphed into a real player (a concept foreign to me) and apparently silent, broody types were just what the homeschooled girls of the world needed to make themselves feel special, so I wasn’t as exclusive as I thought.
This recipe for White Chili was one of the great comforts of my time in Texas. It isn’t just good because it’s nostalgic – I’ve won chili contests with it on more than one occasion – but it is especially good because it’s nostalgic, and because every time I make it, I remember those days, of being young, and idealistic, and grownup, and not at all grownup. I remember eating this hearty soup when I was nursing my crush on poor son-of-a-gun Ross, and again when I was nursing my broken heart, and someday when my daughter tells me about her first romantical devastation, I might just hand her a bowl of it and ask her to tell me the story.
Saute in Saucepan:
1 lb chicken breast, cut & cubed;
1 med. onion, chopped;
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
Add: 2 (15 oz) cans great northern beans (drained and rinsed);
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth;
1 (7 oz) can chopped green chiles;
1 tsp salt;
1 tsp oregano;
1 tsp cumin;
½ tsp black pepper;
¼ tsp cayenne.
Cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. (Ideally, stop at this stage and refrigerate for 12 hours or more; the flavors really intensify overnight.)
Add: 1 c. sour cream; ½ c. heavy cream or half & half. Heat but do not let boil.