So while one of my grandfathers celebrated his birthday last weekend, another one passed away in August. We didn't always get along (he was a staunch Republican and told me back when I was in high school that my vegetarianism was a fad) and he wasn't my biological grandfather, but he was still the one grandpa I'd known ever since I was a baby. I actually thought he was Chinese most of my childhood because he spoke Chinese and I didn't know any differently. He was born and raised in Toledo, OH and lived quite an interesting life before he and my grandma moved from Taiwan to the South Bay in the 70's, most of the details of which I will never know. Even though neither of them had a cooking background, they opened an ice cream parlor/cafe and needless to say, I spent a lot of time there (although not so much that I could get fat off stuffing my face with ice cream). Besides ice cream, they served a mix of chinese and western food (I won't go into details as I don't think any of it was veg). I didn't appreciate it at the time, although it was a favorite of my brother's, but they served a signature chili with my grandpa's last name. It's my guess that the western foods came from his tastes, but I don't know if the chili was actually a family recipe. I do remember (as best as early memories can be trusted) that it had kidney beans, potatoes, and tomatoes. When I finally tried my hand at making chili a few years ago, I used my impression of their chili as my inspiration. Here's a version from last week that also had ginger, broccoli, red onion, chard, red cabbage, zucchini, green bell peppers, and mushrooms. Sometimes I add TVP for a more meaty texture (which would also more resemble the original).
My grandparents went on to open both chinese and italian restaurants when they moved to Southern California and my grandpa kept up his love of food (unhealthy choices as they might be) to the end. We disagreed about what we ate, but I like to think we shared a healthy appetite. I'm sad that there will be no future meals together, but we'll always have chili.