Blues Buster: Honey-Chipotle Pork

January 28, 2011

My Daddy-o, a native Chicagoan, has sports in his blood. If such things were possible, I think he’d insist on being buried smack in the middle of Soldier Field. Wait…scratch that. Maybe he’d choose Wrigley. Wait…maybe he’d rest his hallowed bones in the old Blackhawks Stadium–not the  new one, mind you–but the one across from the Cabrini Green public housing projects. You know, Bad Bad Leroy Brown territory.

Daddy-o loved that old stadium, mainly because that dumpy facade had the most ear-shattering acoustics known to man. Shoulder-to-shoulder, crammed in like delinquent sardines, Hawks fans would swill beer and shake fists and curse the refs so viciously that the building pulsated, booming like an adrenaline drum.

Daddy left Chicago, but the sports fan in him remained. This was grim news for the rest of the family–a decidedly estrogen-laden crew. My sister and I would whine and sulk, and Mama would roll her eyes, but still we’d clamber into the car and endure hours amidst the peanut-crunching masses at sporting events.  It was a testament to how much we loved that brown-eyed rascal; as much as we loathed sports, we didn’t have the heart to disappoint him.

As time went by, the females in our family began using the divide-and-conquer approach to appease Daddy’s appetite for sports. Wily creatures that we were, we pointed out to Daddy that it was much cheaper, much more sensible to buy two tickets to each game, was it not? And wasn’t that one-on-one time with a chosen lassie the kind of “quality family experience” the magazines and newspapers endorsed?

We probably didn’t fool Daddy one little bit, but he agreed, and collective feminine butt-time was reduced by 2/3. We Skirted Ones deemed this a mighty fine development.

Interestingly enough, once sports attendance became strictly a two-person affair, my sister and I began enjoying our afternoons at the stadium with Daddy. Gone were the protests and the pouts. My father loaded us up with the choicest of snacks and we’d eagerly shake our fists and holler at the ref right along with him, comrades in arms.

I learned a lot at those games, and not just about sportsmanship and rules of play. No, sir. Those afternoons were lessons in human nature and social mores, let me tell you.

The Denver Broncos games of my youth were particularly edifying. For a few years, Daddy and a huge group of co-workers chartered a Greyhound bus on home-game Sundays.  The festivities always began with Mai-Tai soaked brunches at a dingy Polynesian-themed restaurant named Tommy Wong’s.

Tommy Wong’s served drinks with paper umbrellas and food they’d light on fire–not a bad deal for a kid. I always tried to finagle a seat next to a couple named Rita and Marvin. Rita and Marv were fascinating. Rita wore brazenly false eyelashes, smoked menthols and had impossibly long, crimson-lacquered fingernails. She told dirty jokes that I didn’t understand and sneaked me wedges of rum-soaked pineapple from her Hurricane glass, winking slyly. As brunch progressed, Rita’s jokes got dirtier, her laugh grew raspy and Marv would tug on the collar of his shirt, pink-faced.

You’d think that after a warm-up like that, the game itself would be a letdown, but it rarely was. The football was rotten– it was a rough period for the Broncs–and on-field action was downright sloppy. Off-field antics, however, provided top-notch entertainment. Frustrated to the point of blind fury, fans began behaving badly by the second quarter. By game’s end, the spectacle was enough to keep a 3rd grade girl bug-eyed for a week.

There was the gray-bearded man, two aisles down, wallet chained to the back pocket of his jeans, who chewed Red Man tobacco with frightening vigor.  He’d fidget in his seat, spitting brown goo into a cup until, suddenly reaching his limit, he’d lunge to his feet, spittoon in hand, scream “Morton, you fucker!!” and flail his arms around his head, as if he’d wandered into a wasp’s nest.  If the quarterback was having a particularly dismal day, I’d be treated to at least 5 “Morton-you-fuckers” a game.  That was hoo-boy fun, but I pitied the fans seated in “the spray zone” nearby.

A few rows down, to the left, was the young couple with sunglasses and the colorful pipe, which emitted a sweet and foreign-smelling smoke. They lit the pipe under the cover of a shared blanket and drank hot tea from a thermos.  They were the only ones around us who, by 4th quarter, seemed unbothered by the rants of “Morton-you-fucker” dude.

There was the Barrel Man, a jolly, rotund guy who donned nothing but  cowboy boots and a blue and orange-hued barrel, no matter the weather. My dad looked at him in disbelief in November and December. “That guy has anti-freeze in his veins,” he’d say, shoving gloves onto his red fingers.

My favorite, for obvious reasons, was The Mooner. The Mooner wasn’t on our Greyhound, but he was on another chartered bus parked in the same lot.  If the Broncos’ loss had been particularly painful, Moon-Man would treat our entire bus to a view of his blanco, fuzzy rear end, flattened against the bus window as it passed.  On warm Autumn afternoons, he’d lower the window down, so we could appreciate his gesture in unadulterated form.  Daddy would pat my shoulder, chuckle softly and say, “Well, your mother doesn’t need to hear about that, wouldn’t you say?”

The balm of memory is a strange and forgiving thing. I’m sure that in my tender years, those games were overwhelming–an assault of smell, sound, behavior that I didn’t understand. But I look back now and see them as relics of the time…little slices of life and looney-ness and laughter that I got to share with my father.

Daddy-o and Mama came for the football game this past Sunday, and we cheered on his beloved Bears, even though we feared the Pack would prevail. Luckily for us, the Bears rallied in the second half (with a young Colorado QB at the helm, no less–take that, Cutler!) and we had an exciting last half, hollering and hi-fiving like fools.

I made this easy, flavorful pork tenderloin as the center of our meal on Sunday. Unlike a playoff game, this recipe is a guaranteed victory.

Win or lose, I know if I serve up some succulent, tasty pig, the ones I love will dig in, enjoy the time together, and decide that the world ain’t all bad.

Honey Chipotle Pork Tenderloin

serves 4-6

1/3 cup honey

1-2 tablespoons chipotle puree*

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons crushed black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 lbs. pork tenderloin, silver skin trimmed off

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt honey until warm and easy to stir. Add in all other ingredients except pork tenderloin and whisk well. Set aside.

Pat pork tenderloin dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 40-45 minutes, or until juices run clear. When pork is done, pour glaze over, tent with foil and let sit for 10 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve, preferably to your favorite Bears fan.

*For Chipotle Puree: Grab a can of chipotle chiles canned in adobo sauce off of the shelves in your local market (Latin section). Whizz in a blender or food processor and store in a jar or tupperware. Viola! Chipotle puree.

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