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I practice cooking magic. Since the first reaction I get from pagans when I say this is, "what the hell is cooking magic," I should explain that cooking is a hobby that helps me to meditate. When I'm working my way through the preparation of a tasty dish, I can cut myself off from the world around me and immerse myself in the immediacy of the moment – in other words, I can achieve gnosis through cooking. In the same manner that a musician finds gnosis when he's on stage in the middle of a rockin' set, or a writer makes his magic as he produces a story that comes from his soul, so I consider cooking to be my magic.

On Friday May 18th (a date that used to have personal significance in a previous life), I came across an article on jazz musician Miles Davis and his cooking. It seems Davis wasn't only a musician, though he will forever be remembered for his legendary contributions to jazz – he was also a decent cook. The article described how the author took it upon himself to re-create Davis' chili recipe – and how, to him and him only, the results were magical. He even wrote, "And for a second, while I extemporized my way through the cooking, I swear Miles entered the room." This truly is cooking magic…and I knew that I had to make this recipe myself.

First came the ingredients. Yesterday (Saturday morning) I wrote on Facebook, "So…last night I came across that recipe for Miles Davis' chile recipe. It requires a three hour slow simmer, and I thought it would be good to make it today when I'm home on the pager. So I figured I'd go out to get the ingredients at Price Chopper, because they're open 24 hours and I wouldn't have to go today, when I'm on the work pager (again). And I decided to walk to Price Chopper because it was a nice clear night. But…as I was getting my shoes on, I got a call from work. I had to do an emergency after hours shipment from our supplier in Louisville, Kentucky. Normally this would take about five minutes, but due to a clerical error it ended up taking over an hour. So finally, it finished up and I had the chance to go out and do my food shopping. At 12:30 AM. I decided to still walk to Price Chopper because I was wide awake from the work call, and ended up going to bed at 2:30 AM." Thanks to the recipe, I got to have fun playing a stereotypical role – walking the streets alone, dressed in black. That was ridiculous, and it was fun. :)

And so, while calls came in on the pager, I set about making Miles Davis' chili. A lowly beginner attempting to emulate Miles Davis? I was certain I wasn't the first. On my Cast Iron Cooking Facebook group, I blogged my experience.

1:30 PM: Miles Davis' chili in the making. ( The recipe is here: ) Earlier this morning I looked for other comments on the Web about this chili, to see what kind of a cook Miles really was. I did find one comment from a guy who tried this recipe and didn't have a lot of success – it came out very soupy for him. And as I went over the recipe and read this guy's description of how he did it, I felt that he had the right idea when he said how Miles was a disciple of from-the-hip invention, and he didn't want to follow a set of instructions. Based on this, I decided to use the actual ingredients listed by Miles instead of the listing given by the author of this article. I used the general measurements – 2 pounds of ground chuck, 32 ounces of crushed tomatoes and kidney beans – but other than this, I decided to forego actually measuring the ingredients, and I threw it in to see what would happen. I heated up the bacon grease (from this morning's bacon) and browned the ground beef in it; into this, I added diced red and green pepper (half each of red and green), kosher salt, and pepper from the grinder. For the mustard, I used a big squeeze of mustard from a plastic mustard bottle, plus a shot of vinegar; after this I put in the tomatoes and kidney beans, then added the remaining spices. For the cumin and chili powder, I added enough for it to seem right (and for me to smell it). After this, I used the remainder of an open container of broth I'd had in the fridge. The mustard plus vinegar are giving this sauce (it's more like a sauce than a chili at this point) a strong vinegar scent – which suits me just fine, because I happen to love vinegar. :) It's also a pleasant change of pace from recipes of this sort, which usually call for copious amounts of ketchup. The resulting mixture did turn out rather liquid, so after heating it at a setting of 6 (just over medium heat) to bring it to a boil, I lowered it to 3-4. I'm letting it simmer on the stovetop in an uncovered pot for at least three hours to reduce it. And I'll be serving it over pasta.
3:00 PM: After an hour and a half at a setting of 3-to-4 on the stovetop, the chili has thickened nicely; I've just put the cover onto the pot in order to let it cook more thoroughly. The taste isn't bad, either: despite the large amount of mustard and vinegar, it isn't overwhelming the beef and the peppers. A lot of people like their chili with a bit of a burning sensation, of the kind that coats your tongue. If I were to add cayenne pepper to this chili, I'm sure that would add the burning sensation to it; but that's not my favorite way to enjoy chili. I've added more ground pepper to it. There does seem to be something missing - maybe a little background sweetness to it. It's not too strong, but the meat still tastes a bit bland, even when mixed in with the other ingredients.
3:30 PM: After only 30 minutes more, I checked the chili and found that covering the pot had brought out more of the liquid. So I uncovered it once again and reduced the heat down to 2. I've also mixed in about a teaspoon of curry. On the whole, this chili isn't bad so far.
5:30 PM: The verdict on the finished chili: thumbs up! It's actually a mild chili, not the kind at all that hits you with a strong taste or burns your tongue. But served over pasta with a topping of cheddar cheese (not enough to drown it, just enough to flavor it), it's quite delicious indeed! The large amount of mustard, plus vinegar, added at the beginning had completely absorbed into the chili, and it did not overpower it; since the recipe used mustard instead of ketchup, it wasn't sickly sweet. I can barely taste the curry I'd added an hour before it was done; but this is tasty enough that I don't have to add any other seasonings to it besides the cheese. Volumes have been written on Miles Davis and his immortal, legendary status in jazz. As a cook, I'd say he was a decent one as well. This isn't world-class chili here, and it won't win any awards; it's a basic, everyday chili that just happens to have Miles Davis' name attached to it. This recipe is worth a try – you'll most likely enjoy it.

The chili was delicious – but I'd cooked it more for the experience of making Miles' chili rather than for the chili itself. It was a pleasurable experience – and I realized I'd achieved gnosis.

And what magical results did I see from this? For one, relaxation and achievement. I was on call with the work pager yesterday, and Saturdays on the pager are usually hell – idiots from all over the country call me with equipment emergencies that have to be solved NOW, even though they're on a skeleton crew with weekend staff who know nothing. Yesterday turned out to be one of the quietest and most relaxing days on the pager that I've had in a long time…so much so, I was able to finish a lot of housework, including three weeks' worth of laundry. That in itself is magical. :)

Update, 8:00 PM the same day: If "magic" is an explanation for the strange little coincidences that happen in your waking life, then yesterday's cooking magic definitely produced some magic today. :) Pager is done, it was an absolutely gorgeous day out, I didn't have a lot of money (though I had some), and I had all day to myself. The little voice in my head just said to take a long walk to the Wayside Inn, exactly like when we were kids. Who was I to say no to the little voice in my head?

So I was off, spending the better part of the day walking across town, treading the same paths my brothers and I had wandered a good thirty years ago. And the little magical coincidences started occurring, finally culminating in my meeting not one, but two lovely ladies, but also discovering yet another addition to my cast iron collection – at a substantial discount. I celebrated my new find by making a gin slinger (sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, boiling water) in my Chaos logo drinking glass. Not a bad way to end a day of magic.