Unpromising Beginning, Delicious Finish

I love me some white chicken chili, so I made some the other evening in my Instant Pot. Didn’t look too appetizing, to begin with.

That’s a can of cannelini beans, mished up a little, a can of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies, and a can of cream of chicken soup. I added some frozen corn, some diced leftover chicken, and the Rotel can two-thirds full of water. Stirred it all up, set the Instant Pot for 25 minutes, and got this:

Yes, I like my soup thick, like stew. Charlie was a broth man, so we got along well: He skimmed the broth, and I got “the stuff”.

A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: An unpromising beginning.

MA

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About

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Unpromising Beginning, Delicious Finish

  1. Dan Antion

    January 11, 2022 at 7:09am

    So, you fit together like broth and beans? It does look like a good meal in the winter.

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  2. Michael Hodges

    January 11, 2022 at 12:06pm

    I cannot think of unpromising beginnings without thinking about being deployed to the war in Iraq. My time with the National Guard (after leaving active duty) was always a bit off-kilter, but an irony of human nature came home during deployment.

    When we were in “training” (I use the word loosely, almost nothing we did prepared us for the reality) people kept using the highly popularized word “family.”

    “We’re a family now, we’ve got to have each other’s backs.”
    “Look around… this is your family now.”

    Hell, I even made a joke about it myself when we were released for three days at Christmas prior to departure:

    “Listen folks, you ain’t got time to be bull-shittin’ around so stick to business when you get home. Get your laundry squared away, shoot your wife, shoot her lover, and get your ass back here to the folks who really care about you. Don’t be late.”

    My company was about 300 strong, and I’ve never seen so much sand-side cheating on spouses back home, schemes for bilking the system via misinformation and/or convenience marriages, and a command so bad they were relieved of their positions twice — nearly a third time, but we were so close to departure the Active Army authorities decided not to bother, just removed them from any real decision-making procedures.

    I came home with about 10 people I wanted to stay in contact with. If I didn’t want to actively kill you, you made the list.

    But in the middle of all that absolute garbage lay a couple of ironies that stuck with me fondly, still make me smile to this day.

    On two different occasions I met strangers, newbies transferred to our unit for the deployment. Both were quiet men for the most part, but there was something about each meeting: we paced one another like the big dogs on the block. No growling, no posing or threats, just Men who neither joined into all the “we’re family now” BS nor knew quite what to make of one another.

    We stared at one another, and there was no love lost; but time changed that. As the nonsensical trappings of “family” fell away and mischief infected the Louder Crowd like a sickness, as people fell into disrepute and back-alley attitudes, those whose lives were about War now slowly came together.

    One man and I made peace and built a friendship over the desire for a decent bed instead of a cot. After pulling into our home encampment early one morning and heading for the tents, I mused aloud my desire for a few hours of solid sleep, wishing for a better surface on which to lay. He did the same. A few paces later he asked “Wanna build beds?”

    We worked all day. I learned some basics I hadn’t known about carpentry, and most of all we did what men do as we worked: we talked. Talked of home, talked of growing up, talked of family for better or worse. He was one of my groomsmen, I was his best man.

    The other man talked with me because of a hard workday building tires. Every platoon got the duty at one point or another, and because he knew how from his life owning a body shop, he ran the tire machine.

    People rolled tires to and away from the machine… but mostly they stood around and talked about what a fine, fine job we were all doing. I suspect many of these people later had shovel duty with the highway department, but that’s conjecture.

    I didn’t roll tires, I seized one in each hand and carried them to the stacks, hurling them up where others couldn’t (or wouldn’t) reach. Having grown up pitching more hay than most people have seen, for me the job was about finishing the job, not about self-congratulation. I remember one young lady, not much bigger than the tires we were stacking. She wasn’t getting a lot done, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. She never stopped moving, not once, except to pull me aside and say “You’re making two trips for every one I get done, and you have to pitch my tire up onto the stack. I just want to tell you I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do something like that, and thanks for helping me.”

    But the guy running the machine, the “unpromising beginning” guy — when we all finally broke for supper this man who had never spoken to me in all the months prior grabbed my arm and said “I made over 400 tires today, and I think you moved about 300 of them.” He spit the Quik-crete-tasting dust in which we lived from his mouth and took a tired breath. “More than twenty people standing around, or moving just a little in order to look busy. They might as well have just sent us, y’reckon?”

    I pointed out the young woman who kept up as best she could, and he said “Yeah, and maybe her. Can’t blame her for being small, she still worked.”

    When we were finally Stateside again, back at the home armory, we had shed nearly everyone else. Not all, but most. In the preliminary hours before our duty weekends the three of us greeted one another, drifting into a tiny clique of our own. We’d learned who we could rely in in war, who was really Family and who was just… semantic noise.

    Some mished-up cannellini beans, some cream of chicken soup, and some whatnot.

    And some time to simmer. Occasionally an unpromising beginning yields good stuff with some heat, and some time.

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  3. joey

    January 11, 2022 at 9:34pm

    I like a thicker soup as well! The Mister likes the broth. We chose well.
    Do you have an air fryer too?
    I’m tempted to buy both and see what kind of kitchen witchery I can brew up.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      January 12, 2022 at 9:44am

      I used to have an air fryer, but I couldn’t take another learning curve, so I gave it away. I come from the generation that had radios with two knobs: on/off and volume control.

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  4. acflory

    January 12, 2022 at 5:36pm

    Soup is good no matter how thick it is. The Offspring prefers broth, but I like both, and I’m the cook so…nya nya nya…lol

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