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Yesterday, at work, our printer broke.  In typical technology fashion, it broke at the worst possible time; we needed to print reconciliations and guests needed us to print paperwork.  During a brief lull at the front desk, I said to my coworker, “I’m going to call someone to fix the cotton-pickin’ printer.”

“The what?”

“The printer,” I said, “I’m going to call IT Support so that they can come fix it.”

“No, but you called it something else,” he said.

Oh.  At that point I realized I called our printer a “cotton-pickin’ printer.”  What even is a cotton-pickin’ printer?  Looking at the phrase out of context, I realize that it most likely has its roots in the old days of white supremacy and I probably shouldn’t say it for the sake of political correctness.  But, “cotton-pickin’” is something my mom has said for my entire life.  After hearing it so often, I’ve internalized it and never questioned it, just like so many other random phrases that people frequently ask me about, such as muttering “ay-yai-yai” when I’m overwhelmed and calling a paper clip a “clippy” and a remote control a “clicker.”

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Growing up, these phrases were a normal part of my household vocabulary.  Until I left home and started informing my friends that I need to “flip my laundry,” did I realize that other people do not “flip” their laundry, they merely move it from the washer to the dryer.  I find this so much less amusing, but that is beside the point.

The “cotton-pickin’ printer” episode made me suddenly long for my own home, the place where I am completely comfortable and always understood.  I used to resist these pangs of homesickness; I thought they made me seem less independent.  I understand now that feeling homesick means I am fortunate enough to have a loving family to miss.

So, last night, I called my family just to say hi.  We chatted for an hour while I made a dinner that always reminds me of home: Chili.

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My Adaptation of The Frog Commissary Cookbook “Vegetarian Chili”

½ cup olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onion
¾ cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped carrot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups chopped mushrooms
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1-2 tablespoons fresh basil
2 tablespoons chili powder
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 cups tomato juice
¾ cup bulgur wheat
2 cups chopped tomatoes
30oz (2 15oz cans) undrained kidney beans
½ teaspoon Tabasco
2 tablespoons lemon
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worchester sauce
¼ cup dry red or white wine (optional)
2 tablespoon chopped canned green chilies

Have all the ingredients ready.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Over high heat, add the onions, celery, green peppers, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, spices, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, stirring.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered.  If too thick, the chili can be thinned with additional tomato juice.