Mom’s chili goes to the nutrition lab

Are We There Yet? • LORI CLINCH

Although I decided about 10 minutes into parenthood that I’d never be a contender for mother of the year, I’ve given it my best shot.

I’ve done a good job of snapping and pointing at the right times. I have settled arguments with the wisdom of Solomon and mastered phrases as brilliant as “Because said so” and “I don’t care who did it first.” Then there’s my own and personal favorite, “Just you wait until you have children of your own!”

Like I said, I’m not the best, but we get by.

We recently got one child raised and out the door, and although some parents might have changed the locks and got an unlisted number, I still mother that kid whenever can.W

hile he is at a college campus far away, I still make Vernon’s nutritional intake a priority. As a doting mother, I package casseroles and entrees for him with love. I then label them carefully and freeze them until we can get them to our poor, starving child who’s off struggling to educate himself.

When he came home for a weekend just last month, I stocked a cooler full of beef noodle soup, frozen enchiladas, and several containers of Lori Clinch’s famous homemade chili.

I then loaded the cooler into his car, and as I patted myself on the proverbial back for being such and caring mother, I kissed Vernon on the head and told him, “Farewell my struggling son, fare thee well.”

I may not be the best, but I do give it a stellar go.

I never heard much from my son in the way of thanks. But I told myself that as Vernon ate my chili and homespun meals that he, in his own way, certainly appreciated every tasty morsel.

Then last weekend we, as a family, rang Vernon’s bell as we stood on his stoop. Loaded down with frozen lasagna, pulled pork and beefy-del-nacho-casserole (a Clinch family favorite), I couldn’t help thinking how pleased Vernon would be.

Once inside, the younger three boys made themselves at home on Vernon’s couch, while I awaited kudos for my leftovers. I didn’t expect awards and recognitions, you understand, but thought perhaps Vernon would at least toss a “What a gal!” my way.

When he said nothing, I stepped up to the plate and asked, “So are you enjoying my food or not?”

“Oh yeah!” Vernon exclaimed. “I forgot to tell you that I had your chili tested and it didn’t fare so well.”


“Yeah, I took it to my nutrition lab, and did you know that the daily recommendation of sodium is 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams, and your chili had 3,205 milligrams per serving and I ingested three portions that day, which put me 7,315 milligrams over the daily recommendation! And that was just from one of your meals!”

Ingested, he said. Not ate, not enjoyed, ingested as if he were subjected to arsenic or something.

I don’t know what response that kid of mine expected. Perhaps he thought I would be riddled with dismay, perhaps he thought his colorful commentary would solicit a gasp, or that I would fall prostrate on the floor and beg forgiveness for poisoning his holy temple with my sodium irresponsibility.

Instead I looked at him with a furrowed brow as I tried to come to terms with what he had just said. Then I asked the question that should be obvious to you and me, “What kind of kid has his mother’s chili tested?”

“The kind that worries about his sodium intake,” he responded. “I can’t just be eating irresponsibly. I have to take care of my digestive tract, my arteries, and if I don’t worry about the possibility of fluid retention, then who will?”

This from a kid who was once famous for standing at the counter and pouring sugar straight from the decanter into his mouth.

As he stood there and lectured me on proper nutrition and the benefits of gastrointestinal health, I wondered to myself if he was too old to adopt out and if his roommate would appreciate my beefy nacho casserole for the heartfelt meal that it was meant to be.

I can’t wait until Vernon has children of his own.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at www.loriclinch. com.