Lessons from Grandma: Chili Recipe

Hello Readers!  Now, I know that a lot of you probably have heard me talk about my Chili recipe that came from my grandfather Gampy, but let me tell you a little about my grandparents.  First of all, it’s important to know that my maternal grandparents, whom I called Nammi and Grumpa growing up, divorced when my mom was two in 1960.   A couple of years later, Nammi married her second and final husband, whom I called Gampy.  He was a wonderful man who lived a very adventurous life before (and after) he married my grandmother.

While my maternal grandfather, Grumpa, was still around, he wasn’t as prominent in my life as Gampy.  Nammi and Gampy, however, are the “grandparents” I remember fondly in my childhood.  So, before I jump into telling you Gampy’s Chili recipe, I want to give you a little background on my grandparents, beyond their marital status.

Gampy was born in Van Wert, Ohio, in the 1920’s.  His family was a working class family.  His father was an inventor who died when my grandfather was young, and his mother made ends meet by doing laundry and cooking meals.  He was a child when the Great Depression of the 30’s hit the world, and his family suffered under the depression, just like so many families.  I can remember his stories of growing up in Van Wert during this trying time, and there were some hard times.

He would often tell me the tale of the time the canning factory in their town caught fire and cans were exploding out of the factory due to the heat and flames.  People were scrambling over themselves to get as many cans of food as they could.  Most of the cans didn’t have any labels as they had burned off in the fire.  And so, they spent weeks having “mystery dinners” in which they wouldn’t know what they were eating until they opened the can.

Needless to say, Gampy’s family survived the Depression, and he went on to attend Ohio State University, focusing on Arborology, or the study of trees.  He went on from Ohio State to join the Air Force, and he served during the Korean War, after which he became a performer for a few bands in the 50s.  His last band work was with the Hoosier Hotshots from the 60’s on after their original drummer retired.  He joined as the drummer, although at that point it was more of a weekend job.

By then, he was married to my grandmother.  They moved from my hometown to the Los Angeles area since the band was located there.  And my grandfather became an Arborologist for the City of Oxnard, California.  He worked for them for many years until they retired to my hometown once again.

The lessons he learned during the Great Depression continued to influence his life, and they have also influenced my life.  He was a strong influence in how I live my own life and how I learned to manage on a small income, along with my grandmother and my parents.  One thing I remember the most about my childhood was Gampy’s Chili.  Every Fall, Gampy would make his chili in a huge cast iron pot, and everyone would be invited over to enjoy his chili.  It was a time for our family, including my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and it signaled the start of the season to all of us.  If my sister and I stayed at my grandparents’ home as children, we would get so excited at the sight of the chili pot, as it so lovingly became known.  To this day, I still smile at the sight of the pot and the memories associated with it.

Now, this recipe is quite basic.  But the cost is real deal of it.  For less than $10, you can feed a family of 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day.  Our family of three makes this dish last four about seven to eight servings total, so it’s the perfect dish for cold days like those we’re bound to see in the next few weeks.  This can be made on the stovetop or in a Crock Pot.  Enjoy!


Gampy’s Chili
1 lb. ground beef (any variety; can also use turkey or pork, if desired)
1 large red onion, chopped
1-15.5 oz. can Red Kidney Beans plus juices in can
1-14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes, plus juices in can
1-4 oz. can diced green chiles
salt & pepper
cayenne pepper (optional)
garlic (optional)

  1. Heat a medium or large skillet over medium heat.  Add ground beef and cook, stirring constantly, until beef is browned.
  2. Meanwhile, add chopped onion, beans, tomatoes, and chiles to a large pot or Crock Pot.
  3. Drain fat from beef.  Add beef to pot and stir.  Season with salt and pepper to liking.
  4. If using, add cayenne pepper to taste and/or garlic to taste.  Roughly 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper will produce a medium spice level.  One garlic clove per batch is typical, if used.
  5. Set on low temperature, either on the stove or in a Crock Pot for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally.  Season as needed.  Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, chives, or any other desired toppings.  Makes 4 servings.

I hope you and your family will enjoy this recipe and mine have done for generations!  This recipe can be easily doubled and is a great, and cheap, dish to serve at a large gathering.

Until next time,



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