Mom Thornton’s Chili with Steve’s ‘BAMs!’

By Marcia Thornton Jones

This is the time of year that I start pulling out ‘family favorite’ recipes. What would Thanksgiving be without sweet potato casserole topped with melted marshmallows? What would Christmas be without sugar cookies or Irish cream truffle fudge?

Flipping through my binder full of recipes is like turning the pages of a photo album. I can see Dad standing by the stove, patiently turning the chicken when making his spicy fried chicken, and feel the steam rising up to fog his glasses. I can see Mom rolling out dough, thin and even, and smell the cinnamon of my brother’s favorite apple pie. I can hear the sizzle of chicken-fried-steak in the electric skillet and the rattle of the cookie jar that Grandma filled with sugar cookies just for us.

Most memories I can never taste again because the people are gone (and I don’t cook the way they did). But I must admit that as the days grow shorter and cooler, the little girl in me craves one of Mom’s recipes because, really, what would fall be without her chili? Just the thought of it makes me feel cozy, warm, and safe.

As with most recipes, Mom’s chili has changed a bit over the years. My husband Steve has experimented by adding pinches of this and that until Mom’s really good recipe became great. That sounds a lot like the revision process, doesn’t it? Where we, as writers, take a good story and make it even better? My recipe even looks a bit like an edited page of one of my manuscripts!

This makes me wonder…what are my story character’s favorite foods? What tastes and fragrances would elicit emotions of warmth, comfort, safety, and unconditional love? What might she eat when she’s happy? Depressed? Angry? What food would she stash under her bed? What would she never-ever-ever eat—even on a dare?

How about your characters? What foods might they hide in their sock drawers? Care to share?


  1. Love this about your mom's chili--no two people make a dish that tastes the same, even if they follow the recipe word-for-word!

    1. I've noticed that even if I make it the same way, some batches are good; some not so good. Is it the quality of the beef? The humidity in the house? Who knows. But the same is true for writing. Sometimes it works; sometimes not!

  2. Even though I have a few of my mom's recipes, when I make them they don't taste quite the same. I think it was the pan and oven she baked everything in...and the love that filled every dish. Thanksgiving is one of the times I miss her most.

    1. I understand, Darlene. While I love the holiday season, I also feel a bit meloncholy. Memories of childhood and people long gone. Sigh...need a sugar cookie...


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