Bena Mae's Kitchen: The Annual Christmas Letter
They are usually from someone we haven’t seen or heard from in 20 or 30 years, someone whom we wouldn’t recognize if they knocked on our front door. It is written as a form letter and may as well be addressed to “to whom it may concern” owing to the lack of the writer’s personal connection to the recipient during all that time.
No “how are you, hope you’re well, hope you have been in good health, would love to see you,” nothing that says anything about you or your family.
It starts off with glowing reports of the writer’s family members and their outstanding accomplishments; their children’s marvelous achievements -- most of whom you have never met -- and expressions of their many successes over the years.
I call them “bragging letters,” and they go straight from my hands to the garbage. Where have these people been all these years and what is the purpose of this correspondence? Is it an attempt at self-importance?
Or is it an attempt to remind you of your lackluster everyday life by comparison to their exceptional attainments. Whatever the writer’s purpose, it fails miserably.
I have my own answer to this kind of correspondence. Written as “tongue in cheek” it goes like this:
Dear family member, old classmate or former neighbor,
It was nice hearing from you after all these years--how long has it been--20 years? 30?
A lot has happened since I saw you last. Uncle John died. We missed you at the funeral. He left a fortune of 20 million dollars to his heirs. Reading the will was a blast.
Aunt Clara turned 100 years of age last month. It was quite a celebration. The whole town turned out. She missed your card.
Your cousin Fred finally realized his goal of climbing Mt. Everest. You remember Fred. He always was the adventurous one that you thought was a little daft. But he made it to the top and is now being featured in National Geographic.
Uncle George was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the president. He discovered life on Mars and is currently recruiting retirees to settle there.
My family just returned from a trip around the world. We stopped off in several third-world countries where we helped distribute food and medical supplies. It was a very rewarding trip and we plan to do it again next year. Care to go with us?
Your first cousin once removed was just named U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan. We are very proud of him.
In closing, it was great getting your form letter. Write us again in say 20 or 30 years. But send us a picture first. So we can recognize you.
Sincerely, your relative, old classmate or former neighbor.
Speedy Week-Night Chili
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
2 small onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cans (16 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) stewed tomatoes
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 bottle (12 ounces) beer or nonalcoholic beer
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1/4 cup chili powder
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook the beef, onions and green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.
Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Drain.
Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Yield: 15 servings.