WRITTEN ON October 13th, 2010 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Beans, Dinner, Mexican, Pork

One of the last lines of one of the greatest movies ever made goes a little something like this: “Remember, Red, hope is a good thing.  Maybe the best of things.  And no good thing ever dies.”

Andy Dufrense writes that to his friend Red from Mexico, prompting Red to break his parole and head south of the border, in The Shawshank Redemption. I’m always moved by the last scenes of that movie. Red cautiously making his way, a little spooked, through the wheat fields to find the hidden letter.  Riding the bus, window open and breeze on his face, out of town.  And finally, strolling down a long strip of sandy white beach, arm out stretched, to shake the hand of his friend Andy.

Over the last two days I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of hope. Yesterday, after a rejuvenating birthday visit from my Aunt Sally, I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning watching the rescue of the Chilean miners.  Just now, they pulled out lucky number 13.

I’m not sure what is the most inspiring part of this very long, dramatic process.  The faith and discipline it must have taken the miners to stay healthy, sane, and organized buried so deep within the Earth for such a record amount of time. The stalwart determination of the Chilean government, searching the globe to put together the best possible team of people to help bring their boys home. The quiet patience and grace of the family members who must have been under an incredible amount of anxiety while awaiting news of their loved ones.  Or finally, the support and attention of not only the Chilean people, but of the whole world, watching, riveted, breath held, to see the first, then the second, miner emerge from their dark and steamy prison. It still hasn’t gotten old.  And the world won’t stop watching until the 33rd miner comes out safely.

The thing that seems so natural, so constant, among the miners, the families, the government, the public at large? Hope.  Because Andy was right.  It’s maybe the best of things. After all, what is hope really but the most simplified version of a prayer? It’s obvious that the world needs some hope right now.  We need something to bring us together, to collectively root for. The cheers and shouts and fist pumps and jubilant hugs and kisses from the miners and their family members make us remember how lucky we are (and not just because we weren’t the ones trapped in a mine for 69 days). When all is said and done, when all the chips are down, it’s the love and the people in our lives that matter. Not money, not power. Not game scores or winning or inappropriate text messages. Not tea parties or politics or childish finger pointing.  And it’s stories like this one that hammer that home. So the real question is this: who’d be waiting for you at the top of the mine?

In honor of the Chilean heroes, I’m posting this recipe for Pork and Bean “Chile.” It is seriously the best chili I’ve ever made.  It has an incredibly rich,velvety flavor that is savory, sweet, spicy, tangy; basically everything you’d want in the perfect bite. It’s great for a crisp fall night.  It’s also just the thing I’d want bubbling cheerfully on the stove when welcoming someone home after a long time away.

For me, the most inspiring story from this whole ordeal is that of Ariel Ticona’s baby girl.  Born while her father was trapped in the mine, he asked that she be named Esperanza. Hope.  Sounds about right.

Welcome home Chile

Pork and Bean “Chile” (serves 4)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 cup cooked red beans
1 cup cooked pinto beans
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp chili powder
3 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 small chunk dark unsweetened chocolate
2 cups diced tomatoes (from a can or fresh, with their juices)
1 lager style beer
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup beef broth
1 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper
In a large Dutch Oven, heat olive oil.  Pat pork dry, season with salt and pepper. Brown well on all sides in pot. Remove from pot, pour off excess fat. Add onion, peppers and saute for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add garlic, saute one minute more. Season with salt and pepper.  Add pork back to pot, add cumin, chili powder and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Add beer, allow foam to go down, bring to a boil for about a minute.  Add coffee, tomatoes, chocolate, bay leaf, broth, honey, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about two hours. allowing to thicken. Remove pork cubes, and with a fork, pull into thin pieces. Add back to chili, taste. Add salt and pepper if needed.  Serve hot with tortilla chips or rice, diced avocado, sour cream (or plain yogurt), scallions and cilantro leaves.

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