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.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane January 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm

You, my dear, are such an entertaining, colorful (in so many ways) writer. I adore your memories and your recipes. And both, today, did not disappoint. I could just hear your dad say, “Well, your mother doesn’t need to hear about that, wouldn’t you say?” Can’t wait to try the tenderloin recipe. That chipoltle puree is just the ticket to get my husband to tolerate pork tenderloin – which I love!


Kelly January 28, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Love these memories, Kitch. As a family of women, we had no interest in sporting or stadiums — but I love those “slice of life” images. The pork sounds great, too!


Stacia January 28, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Good thing you didn’t serve this with a big ole slab of Wisconsin cheese, right?


Katybeth January 28, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Well as dad undoubtedly knows there is always next year….when you live in Chicago. I think you could do color for the Da Bears…I really do!

Pork Tenderloin sounds so good! Perhaps, I will give it the old Chicago try on Sunday.

and then of-course there is the up and coming Chicago mayoral race…let the corruption begin.


TKW's Dad January 28, 2011 at 9:49 pm

As a boy growing up in Chicago, I was lucky enough to have an Uncle that was a sportswriter for the old Chicago Daily News. Spoiled, I had tickets to anything I wanted, so I experienced real life, and real experiences at games in Chicago, Evanston, Champaign-Urbana, Madison, Milwaukee and South Bend, among others. So my Daughters had no choice but to experience real life growing up to show them what grown up life was going to be all about, too. Hauling them to mainly football and hocky games, I learned early on that just handing them some money to go buy junk food at the stands and carts made it much easier to get them to come with me, and I will treasure those wonderful moments always. Thanks, TKW!


bryan January 29, 2011 at 2:56 am

Great memories, thanks for sharing. Your dad seems like quite a man. I love love love pork tenderloin this sounds like a great dish!


Maria January 29, 2011 at 6:09 am

YUM to the pork loin! Hurray for football…Old time Cubans don’t understand the intricacies of the game. I learned quite a bit about the game and the fine art of game day cuisine…There is something magical about watching the guys you love in their element…


Erica@PLRH January 29, 2011 at 8:01 am

Kitch, I love your stories. You have the most vivid memories that make ordinary life so fascinating. As always, thanks for sharing.

My favorite Bears fan plans on making this tenderloin for dinner tomorrow night. I love it when he cooks! So thanks for that too!


jc January 29, 2011 at 12:37 pm

As I clicked over here, my pandora started playing Bad Bad Leroy Brown! *do do do do, do do do do*

All I can say is DITKA! DA BEARZ!


Jody January 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I was dragged to those same Bronco games, but I never saw anything as colorful as what you describe. Maybe it’s because I was usually trolling the interior of the stadium for exotic stadium snacks my parents probably wouldn’t agree to buy me anyway. I wish I’d been sitting with you! The F word! My oh my!


Heather January 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm

The best writing yet again. I was transported to those Bronco’s games right along with you! I didn’t go to many sporting events as a child but we never missed a Viking’s training camp. It was amazing to be so close on the sidelines and hear the crashing of the helmets and pads.
This pork sounds AMAZING! I’m officially adding it to the menu for next weekend!


Phoo-d January 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm

What a great father-daughter experience! Those are treasured games indeed. Nothing brings out all kinds of people quite like a sports game =).
(P.S. – The pork looks terrific!)


Virginia January 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm

We’re Illinoisians by birth here. My girls are born and bred Bears and Cubs fans. We are currently living in Colorado, so we cheer for the Broncos because they’re orange and blue (we’re die hard Illini fans as well).

Loved these stories. I do enjoy a good game, so we take the girls when we can.

This looks delicious. I’m sure my Bears fan husband will love me to make this!


camilla January 30, 2011 at 1:31 am

OMG I am totally making this dish!!! If I can’t find chipotle chillies I’m going to have to ask for a food hamper swap lady!


tasteofbeirut January 30, 2011 at 9:48 am

I have never experienced this football obsession from a family member, so I cannot relate but appreciate your writing about it all the same.
The chipotle pork and honey idea sounds wonderful! Love spicy and sweet and pork tenderloin is my favorite cut.


Shawna Cevraini January 30, 2011 at 10:05 am

Great story! I felt as if I were right there with you, among all those sights and smells! I’m sure you smiled as you wrote this, heart full of those memories! Yummy recipe too!


Cathy January 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm

As the only female in my family of five with a husband who’s a rabid Raiders fan, I understand the lure of the NFL, especially those live games full of colorful characters. I cringe to think what my sons are experiencing, but I know they will cherish the memories as much as you do with yours.

And, I think I’ll try the recipe too!


A Canadian Foodie January 30, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Dana – that is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have heard for a very long while… don’t let me get morbid on you, but you tuck it away and read it to your kids and let them read it to theirs. What a lesson about family time and one on one time and a beautiful sharing of family memories. So funny, my father was raised on pork. He will not touch it. He is so “out of it” in this new “era of all things pig”. Therefore, as a child we had bacon (that was different – he said) but no other part of the pig. I must have been 14 or 15 when he was out of town on a business trip and mom had a girlfriend over with her kids and we had a pork roast. I thought it tasted like candy. I still had pork ribs to try – much later in life – and pork belly – still later. I am not a chop fan. This recipe looks finger lickin’ good without a lot of fuss! Perfect for the family coming and a game day!


faemom January 30, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I love your posts. I love how you can swirl the colors of your past with your present. And the food doesn’t sound half-bad either ;-)


Mrs.Mayhem January 31, 2011 at 7:11 am

Thanks for sharing such a great memory. I cracked up at “the spray zone.” Love your dad’s comment, too.


Gibby January 31, 2011 at 7:30 am

I have a similar sports relationship with my dad. We had season tickets to Browns games and went to Indians games all the time, too. I knew what first and ten and an onside kick was by the 3rd grade. I keep telling Hubs all the time that he can do the same with our girls, but so far they aren’t very interested. There is time, though.

Being a current Chicagoan, however, we are heartbroken over here, and I am guessing that your daddy may need more goodies besides this pork to cheer him up. :( Damn Packers.


Futureblackmail January 31, 2011 at 8:21 am

I wish my Dad would have taken me to some football games! And….although we are strict Colts fans in my house, we were rooting for the Packers last week….it had everything to do with our family money pool and nothing to do with my disdain for the Bears. :)


elizabeth January 31, 2011 at 9:13 am

Your dad:football::my dad:model trains. My brother and I were dragged (in our minds, at least) all over creation to go to train shows, auctions and flea markets so my dad could look for Lionel trains to run on one of his various train platforms. It ended up somehow instilling in me a love of trains and the design of transit maps down the line, and I’ll be his co-conspirator when plying my nephew with Brio trains once he’s old enough.

Loved this–you are a master at taking food and tying it so well into memories, both from long ago and last week.


Jenna January 31, 2011 at 9:22 am

I don’t think I ever put it together that you were from Chicago. Do you still live here? I’m proud to say that the Bears/Packers game was not only watched by yours truly, but I actually kind of understood what was happening! Football has always been a mystery to me.


Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts January 31, 2011 at 9:49 am

Thing I love about that picture:

1. The spotless whiteness of Daddy-o’s sneakers.
2. The adding machine on the desk.
3. The green rotary phone.
4. The intense color blocking of his sweatshirt.

Long live the 80s!!!


Alexandra January 31, 2011 at 10:04 am

Oh, I love it everytime I come here.

The way you mix memories with recipes, with humor, with intimacy.

I’d love to have you sitting across from me, right now.


Contemporary Troubadour January 31, 2011 at 11:41 am

“Daddy would pat my shoulder, chuckle softly and say, ‘Well, your mother doesn’t need to hear about that, wouldn’t you say?'”

I’d say Daddy-o was wily enough too :)


kittycat January 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm

That photo is a hoot. LOVE it!

ALso having the sportsman make this for me for dinner tomorrow. THanks : )


Emily Z January 31, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Cute story. Your dad is adorable, too. Dads are the best. And the pork looks absolutely fantastic!


Sherri January 31, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Sweet, funny memories of your Dad. So… I assume he is still “sports guy” :-). I lost my Dad a few years ago – sports in his blood too (Steelers his team). Anyway…. I think I’d make this even if it wasn’t a game day…. may do so this week. Thanks for bustin’ by blues anyway….


Belinda February 1, 2011 at 11:51 am

Your dad’s comment made me smile. Sounds like he knew all along he was making memories for you to look back on fondly. A delightful read.


Barbara February 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm

My dad was a football fan too… but preferred college to pro. He watched pro, but loved college ball. He played for U of Michigan in the 20’s. I have photos. I went there too, so we were buds at the games.
He died on a Sat. and I had the game on in the hospital. My sister said: why are you bothering with that? He can’t hear it. Well, maybe not, but who knows? So I left it on. I think of him often when Michigan plays.
Personally, I love hockey. Never missed a home Red Wings game when we lived in Michigan. I knew all the odd balls there too…and the organ music and the fights. There were some good ones. :)
Your pork is great football food, kiddo.


TKW June 5, 2011 at 4:49 pm


Somehow, I missed this comment the first time around. I would love, love to see those pics of your dad in his Michigan uniform, with a good story to boot. Pretty please?


Rudri February 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

“The balm of memory is a strange and forgiving thing.” I love how you captured this sentiment in this post. Great writing Kitch and memorable storytelling.


Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points February 2, 2011 at 8:34 am


I SO wish my kids would eat pork.

Or beef.

That recipe DOES NOT WORK with tofu.


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