Chilly Receipt

Debra Riggs


My very first memory of eating chilly was at my Granny Griffin’s dining room table, which encompassed an entire room and part of another.  I was eight years old and my Granny Pansy was in the hospital.  My parents had dropped us kids off at my Granny and Papaw Griffin’s.  We had cold fresh milk, sandwich bread, and bowls of a meaty dish she called Chilly.  It was love at first bite.  I remember having two bowls. My Granny Griffin was part Native American, and I didn’t know my great-grandfather’s origins.  I found out my grandmother’s mother was a full-blooded Indian from a tribe in Virginia.  This was a “receipt” she mailed to my mother in New York per my father’s request in 1954.  My mother saved it all these years.

My Granny Griffin stood five feet tall and was the kindest woman I have ever met. She bore 14 children, and 12 survived.  My father was second to the youngest.  She never complained, never uttered a cross word.  The most delicious smells of food came from her home.  She cooked on a wood stove and carried water from a well across the road to her home in a bucket.  There was always a ladle in the bucket for a drink.  The only heat was the wood stove, so she piled blankets on you until you couldn’t move.  It was the best sleep I remember to this day.

The Griffin family has had a reunion every year for as long as I remember, and it continues today.  It is always a covered dish lunch held at Chaney Chapel Methodist Church in Pisgah, Alabama.  Behind the church is a cemetery where my family is laid to rest.

My parents, for as long as I can remember, visited my grandparents twice a year, to help harvest the gardens and put the salted meat in a little stone house, which was always cold and had a stream running under it.  I never thought of my grandparents as poor.  Their house was always full of music and good food and fellowship.  We always had enough players for two teams of whatever sport was in season.

1 quart water

¾ pound  ground beef

1 large onion cut up fine

1 tablespoon chilly powder

3 cups tomato catsup

2 cups crushed crackers

Salt to taste (It doesn’t take much salt since the crackers are salty.)

Boil the beef and onion in water until done.  Then add the rest of ingredients and bring to a boil.  Mix well and serve. 

What the receipt doesn’t tell you is that the ground beef was fresh from home.  The amount is merely a guess.  The chilly powder was made from dried peppers ground fresh at home.  The crackers were, of course, saltines.  The large onion came from the garden, and the catsup was home-canned.  The grease from the meat was not poured off.