I first met Anna, the younger Boyer sister who had hauled, arranged and prepped everything for our dinner like she was in the cutest cooking show ever produced — at the NOLA Treehouse. Everything she’d put before her on the work table was neat, tidy, old-fashioned and perfectly paid attention to. Her mire poix was a thing of beauty. Her attitude was calming and you could sense what a kind lady with a genuine sense of fun existed beneath her cooking apron. She was like the clean organized eye of a storm (we were cooking in a loud art coop and her beautiful, vivacious sister had yet to arrive).
“I love bureacracy. Haha. I am so organized.” – Anna Boyer
And then Anna’s sister Vaidan had arrived and like the moon rising, the party had started.
Cute. CUTE. Keeeeeew-yuuuute.
The Boyer family is adorable and full of life. They interacted with each other seamlessly and in harmony. A thing of beauty.
The Sisters Boyer and their pop, Arnie, cooked for me on a balmy Sunday Evening in a kitchen filled with windows. They made their mothers chili recipe which they grew up feasting on. They have since modified the original recipe to fit their vegetarian diets. They good-naturedly discussed the various pros and cons of chopping versus dicing. The exact number of beans to use in the recipe and how many teaspoons of a certain spice to add into the pot.
“I usually like white potatoes, but the girls like sweet potatoes.” -Arnie Boyer
Each person had an opinion and a valid reason for wanting to do something a certain way. As I watched them come to a common consensus it struck me how many twists and turns can arise during a recipe. How many choices we are faced in our travels to a specific taste destination.
“This was our mom’s recipe. It used to have beef in it and was a staple in our lives. But we became vegetarians in our ten years so we changed it to have soy. Once my mom tasted it with soy, she never went back to beef.” – Anna and Vaidan, in unison
“Something chemical happens when you crush the garlic. Magic happens. When it cooks it makes everything creamy. And it cooks so evenly.” - Anna Boyer
“You have to achieve the feng shui of garlic.” - Anna Boyer
“Always check the chili powder for its spice levels. Never trust that it’ll always be the same.” – Arnie Boyer
“One time we accidentally put in instant coffee into the chili instead of chili pepper. It was still good, kind mole-like. Not as bad as the time I screwed up the sugar and the salt.” - Anna and Vaidan, in unison
Boyer Family Chili
2 Cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes
3 medium onions, diced into 1/4″ cubes along with EVOO (for simmering)
2 #10 cans of whole peeled tomatoes + juice
4 oz tomato paste
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed in a mortar and pestle until creamy
1/2 LB of textured vegetable protein
10 whole cloves
3-4 bay leaves
5-10 tsp of New Mexico chili powder (to taste)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Simmer onions until clear, about 8 minutes. When clear add the garlic.
2. When onions and garlic are mixed and cooked (about 6 minutes) add in tomatoes and gently crush them by hand as you add them to the saucepan. Add spices.
3. Stir the chili and let bubble away for a few moments. Add sweet potatoes. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes on medium heat.
4. Stir chili. Add beans.
5. Salt and Pepper to taste, after Chili has simmered an additional 10-12 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with toast for dipping.
To learn more about the art gallery scene in New Orleans, visit Vaidan’s PK Gallery website for upcoming art exhibits and projects.