Ken Can Cook: Maybe- Crock Pot Kielbasa Chili

Quick Tip: Spice up a simple grilled cheese sandwich with some Capicola.

Crockpot Kielbasa Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1lb Ground beef or turkey
  • 1lb Kielbasa (from a Polish deli. Avoid store bought kielbasa which is very high in salt and just not nearly as good)
  • 1 Cup Onion
  • 1 Cup Green and / Red Pepper
  • 3 Cloves of garlic, minced
  • 16oz Can kidney beans, drained
  • 16oz Can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 16oz Can tomato sauce
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1tsp Salt
  • 1 – 2tsp Chili powder
  • 1tsp Dried oregano
  • 2/3tsp Black pepper, ground
  • 1/4tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1/8tsp Cumin

Instructions:

  1. Brown the ground beef or turkey and put in crockpot.
  2. Cut the kielbasa into 1/2 inch slices. You may further cut each piece in half but not necessary. Brown and put in crock pot.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
  4. Cook on low for 8 ours or until done.
  5. May further add shredded cheese and/or sour cream if desired.

Dating In The Null Set

To say wading into the ocean that is the dating world at 46 years old differs from what it was like in my twenties is beyond an understatement. Hell, it’s different that it was even 5 years ago and the surf can be rough. Quite honestly, it’s almost unrecognizable and I feel like people have just forgotten how to interact with other humans or in the case of younger peeps, never learned to begin with. So in an effort to entertain, I’m going to give you some highlights of what it’s been like of recent, for me at least.

The most major difference as we all know is the advent and popularity of internet dating. Now, this is not my first rodeo when it comes to dating later in life nor with internet dating. And quite honestly, it’s become somewhat of a necessary evil. I mean, most other options aren’t any better if not worse. Looking for a long term partner in a bar? Of course it’s not impossible but the chances are slim it will work out. Dating at work? Yes your chances are better in finding an equal more aligned with who you are but when they don’t work out, it can get messy and awkward. Even though I’ve tripped over this same rock multiple times, I have never quite learned to not do this. Being set up by friends? Again, if it doesn’t work out, awkward city. Coffee shops? Never seems to work in my experience. So the options for finding a person who has some things in common with you and has similar goals in life is limited. And honestly, internet dating does get some of those common, repetitive questions out of the way. I do like being able to filter out people who smoke and want kids. Those things are just not for me and I’d rather spend time talking to a person about things we have in common than discussing those filter questions in person.

As already stated, this is not my first foray into internet dating. I did it a little over 5 years ago and it was vastly different and better. Back then, I interacted with many more “real” people and met a lot of very cool people. Don’t get me wrong, it still wasn’t perfect. I still had a couple of issues with people grossly lying about their age or who they were. And mind you, it was still nothing compared to what women have to unfortunately deal with regarding incels, men who feel they are owed something from women, or worse men who outright insult or stalk women. The stories I’ve heard make my skin absolutely crawl. The biggest difference today is the amount of fake profiles that I have encountered. That is why is used the term “real” a few sentences ago. When I first got back onto internet dating I was woefully unprepared for this. At first I could not actually figure out what was going on but quickly realized it and was kind of annoyed it wasn’t obvious to me from the start. I encountered these mostly on Plenty O Fish and OK Cupid and it quickly became easy to pick out these fake profiles. They would all have only one photo of a gorgeous, model-esque woman. They would have the most contradictory (and hilarious) information in their profiles such as “Education: High School. Profession: Surgeon”. Additionally, their self summaries are a quagmire of poor grammar and odd punctuation. To top it off, these fake profiles will actually contact you with short messages of “Hi” and “Hello there”. And if you responded, undoubtedly you would get a response with a link to another less then reputable dating site or porn site. Tinder, a dating app made more for your smart phone and relies mostly on pictures with very limited personal descriptions (in case you didn’t know or have been in a coma), was no less guilty of having these profiles. But instead of contacting you with a link or hiding behind a fake profile, they would have a picture directing you too said other website with some of the most hilarious names. Then there are the more simple yet still annoying things people do with their profiles. Some put pictures of them with other people so you can’t tell who the person is. Some put pictures of nature. I even had one use a picture of Bill Joel???  What the actual fuck?!? At the very least they are entertaining. However it is ultimately more annoying as it becomes a great wast of time and my actual interactions and discussions with real people is far far less that it was 5 years ago.

I’d like to say that the differences from the past stop at internet dating, but they don’t. Even when meeting people face to face, there has been a huge decline in the ability of others to just have a conversation. I recently went to a place in Ocean City, Maryland called Seacrets. It’s an iconic establishment in OCMD that has been there for at least 20 plus years. First off let me say the phrase “You can’t go home again” might be a bit trite but it’s 100% true. While I have many memorable memories of that place from my younger years, it was obvious from the moment I walked it that it’s just not my scene anymore. But I was there so I sat down at one of the bars and decided to imbibe and people watch for a while. Not long after I noticed a rather attractive woman sitting across from me. She was alone and looked close to my age so I sent over a drink. I really wasn’t looking for anything and just hoped for some good conversation. After the person sitting next to me left, she came over to talk. I’m not exaggerating when I said it was one of the most painful conversations I’ve had in my life. I was unprepared for how one sided it would be. I would ask a question, she would respond with one to three words then… nothing. There was not back and forth, there was not questions from her. If I did not engage the conversation there would have been radio silence. I just don’t get it. Do people not know how to have conversations anymore? I could understand if it was a twenty something year old, Bieber loving person but someone near my age? I politely removed myself from the situation saying I it was late and I had a 40 minute drive back to my place (both true) and thanked her for a nice evening of conversation (not so true). I   understand she may have had her reasons. I’m not discounting that. And what I wouldn’t give for a good conversation.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m going to keep some of a presence on a couple internet dating sites. Far more entertaining, I’m going to experience what speed dating is like come this August. I can only hope that it is at least as entertaining as the speed dating scene in the “40 Year Old Virgin” and I have something fun (or funny) to write about afterwards.

A Double Edged Sword

Let me preface all of this by saying I love the fact that I’m Polish. I’m proud of it. I enjoy acknowledging the many achievements of famous Polish people such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Marie Curie (born Maria Salome Skłodowska), and Frédéric Chopin (born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin) much to the chagrin of those who actually believe the numerous insults hurled at Polish intellect. However, I would also argue that it is this same pride in one’s nationality that causes just as many, if not more at times, problems and strife in the world.

While everyone has a right and should carry a measure of pride in their heritage, we all know those that take it too far. We all know that person who consistently regards themselves as better than other purely based on their nationality for no other reason than they are that nationality. Rarely do they base this belief on any accepted fact because frankly there is no accepted fact that makes one nationality or culture inherently or generally better than another. Yet people and even whole families do this. There is a huge difference between carrying yourself with pride and being too prideful. Many people take themselves and their heritage too seriously and it creates problems. Eventually a person, a family, a group starts to believe their own hype to a degree that they encroach upon someone else’s life / lives.

The examples of this are numerous with the two that come to mind quickly, the Alsace-Lorraine border and the Polish-German border. Borders change due to many social, economic, and political reasons which can at times also lead to war. However, at the root of all that is the simple notion that one group thinks they are better and/or more deserving than the other for no justifiable reason. The social, economic, political, and military clashes between groups (with rare exception such as Hitler’s megalomania) are really just giant pissing contests on a grand and sometimes destructive scale. In the end, nothing is really accomplished. To take the Alsace-Lorraine and Polish-German borders as examples again, both of those areas have undergone centuries of political and/or military fighting with numerous border changes back an forth. Each country gaining and and losing land over the years. And what is the end result? Today both of those regions are inhabited by people who are basically half French, half German or half Polish and half German living side by side in relative, comparative peace. I’m sure there are still some that hold grudges but we no longer have the border wars of years past in those regions. The people living there on each side of the border are more alike than they are different. And it only took centuries of fighting to achieve that. Imagine all the lives and money that could have been saved if they just skipped the middle man. All that fighting and conflict did was arrive at an arbitrary, invisible, border that attempts to separate people but ultimately fails to do so. French marries German, German marries Polish, the cultures meld. The wars between, ultimately useless acts of bravado, testosterone, and pride that serve no purpose.

As I said in the previous paragraph, those people that live in these areas ultimately wind up being more similar than different. Why? Because nationalities are really false man made concepts. Some of you may be put off by that statement and it’s true none the less. While nationalities may indeed have different customs, languages, etc, those customs are usually borrowed from a neighboring culture or nationality and evolve into something slightly or drastically different. Languages evolved by taking vocabulary and syntax from others. Unless you come from a culture that existed in total isolation from others, your customs, language, art, pretty much everything is not unique. Biologically we are all the same. There is no difference between you and the person who lives across the street, the person who lives in a bordering country, or the person who lives half way around the world from you. You are exactly the same species.

To put it another way, nationalities are just as fake and made up as dog breeds with the exception that 1) we are not inbred (well, with the exception of some Royal families and pockets within certain nations) and 2) dogs don’t seem to dislike or feel superior to other dogs soley because they are a different breed. You may not like that analogy and too bad, it fits. Breeds are fake. There is nothing “pure” about them unless you consider inbreeding a form of pureness. And just as a Gold Retriever can successfully mate with a Poodle, someone from North America can reproduce with someone from the Middle East, A Jewish person can have children with someone from Japan, a Scandinavian can have children with someone from Africa.

There is also a high degree of hypocrisy in people who are overly prideful of their nationality. There is an immunity many feel of their nationality. It is most evident in of all things, jokes. My aim is not to debate whether ethnic jokes are acceptable. That is an topic in and of itself that would fill pages. The point I’m making is something I’ve seen time and time again. A person of certain nationality, say Italian, will sit and tell all sorts of ethnic jokes but the moment someone tries to tell them an Italian joke, it’s off limits. Somehow, they feel they can make fun of any culture or nationality but no one can make fun of their own. And I’m not picking on Italians. I’ve seen Polish, Irish, etc all do the same. They carry a level of superiority that is both hypocritical and undeserved. But they never see it and they get angry when challenged about it. For the record, I enjoy a good Polish joke. The key word being “good”.

At the end of the day we are all the same. We are all Homo sapiens sapiens. Unfortunately, most people become blind to that. Most see the external, superficial differences that have evolved over the centuries and use that as a means to act superior to one another.

So while I champion your right to be proud of your heritage and the positive accomplishments of your culture, I also ask everyone to stop being assholes and taking yourselves too seriously. Stop being overly prideful and extolling your superiority just because you belong to a certain country or have a certain heritage. It’s ugly, it’s counter productive, and you only contribute to the ills of the world.