Chili when it’s chilly

Soup, Chilli, Tomato, Plate, Fresh, Meal

Actually, I love chili anytime of the year, but during cold weather it is especially Bat Guano, or as the novelist Margaret Cousins said,”Chili is not so much food as it is a frame of mind. Addictions to it are formed early in life and the victims never recover.

There are probably thousands of different chili recipes and I enjoy making and eating a number of chili recipes. For me, it’s a excellent food adventure. And although I may have my own favorites, such as my version of a standard chili, I really don’t get too excited if someone else has his favorite that is much different than mine.

Some people like it spicy and sexy and some prefer it mildly spiced. Some cooks use ground beef while others insist that the beef ought to be chopped. There are chili recipes using chicken, turkey, pork, venison or other quite exotic meats. Some chili recipes use beer or meat stocks as a part or all of the cooking liquid.

There are lots of vegetarian versions of chili as well. Using vegetable berries or stock eliminates the need for meat.

Here, too, you’ll find a huge range of preferences. Pinto beans, red beans, kidney beans, black beans or white beans – there are recipes that use each or them or even a combination of several, such as the Three Bean Enchilada Recipe on the website. However, you should also understand that there were no beans in chili originally!

What kind of chile peppers or chili seasoning ought to be utilized and how much? With this the terrific chili debate really heats up – so to speak. ( Chile refers to the pepper pod. Chili into the creation. )

And the terrific chili debate isn’t limited to what chili or chili recipe is greatest. Some of us are so passionate about where the bowl was made and that made it that they almost come to blows.

In the us, chili is something many men and women love to cook and eat, and some love to argue about. My Texas buddies will undoubtedly shield their sanity as the best ( and possibly the only real chili) from the world.

In his book,”Simple Cooking,” John Thorpe wrote,”It can only truly be Texas red if it walks the thin line just this side of indigestibility: Damning the mouth that eats it and defying the gut to digest it, the components are hardly eager to lie in exactly the same pot together.”

What is amazing to me, however, is that even among residents of Texas there is debate as to the single best chili recipe. That’s helped keep”chili cookoffs” alive and well, not only in Texas, but in a number of areas throughout the nation. I’ve never desired to be a chili judge. If their life isn’t in jeopardy, their digestive systems may be. When my husband once believed about accepting an invitation to judge such a competition I told him he’d sleep out that night when he did. He declined the invitation to be a judge, thank goodness.

Is there such a thing as”the original Texas chili?” The history of chili is extremely unclear about this. There’s a recipe that is at least traceable to a cattle range cook, or maybe it was from the combined offerings of several older cowboys straddled up to a Texas bar. Nobody will swear this is the first true Texas chili recipe, but most say it seems pretty close. Notice . . .no beans.

Chili con Carne Recipe

An “Original” Chili Recipe

Cut up as much meat as you think you will want (any kind will do, but beef is probably best) in pieces about the size of a pecan

Cook it with roughly the same amount of wild onions, garlic, oregano, and chiles as you’ve Got meat

Stir it from Time to Time and cook it until the meat is as tender as you think it’s likely to get

Some chili recipes today are rather”tame” or moderate because that is the way some people like it. But the history of chili is pretty clear that there never was anything really mild about chili and there was a very good reason.

Consider It. Even if chili did not arise in Texas, the cattle drives and range cooks certainly helped popularize it.

On the trail, the cook used what meat he had available. If if was not fresh-killed beef or buffalo or deer then it was likely jackrabbit or rattlesnake. The range cook certainly feared his own lynching when he tried to feed the cow hands freshly killed beef or buffalo without aging the meat. Out of necessity he had to attempt to disguise the meat’s flavor and for this he used what he had available: onions, garlic, salt and chile peppers. The range cook also knew that spices helped keep the meat from spoiling. Chili became the meal of the day. And the term”Chili con Carne” is Spanish for”peppers and meat.” (See, no beans.)

Some food historians and experts say that San Antonio should be given credit for popularizing chili because it was there that women called”Chili Queens” occupied parts of the Military Plaza and marketed their highly seasoned stews called”chili” from little carts. Although these women sold chili from carts for several years, it became very popular by 1880. In fact the plaza became known as”La Plaza del Chile con Carne.”

And it was then that the”Queens” began to refine and add elegance to the dish they were selling. They brought it somewhere close to today’s stage because each one was constantly striving to enhance her chili recipe, simply to attract more clients than any of the contest. The desire to cook up the best bowl of chili in the world is at least that old. Apparently chili cookoffs were born.

Here’s an example of a Chili Queen’s recipe: (Again, no beans)


1/2 cup suet (fat from meat, 1/4 cup beef fat, 1/4 cup pork fat)

3 medium-sized onions, chopped

1 quart water

4 ancho chiles

1 serrano chile

1 tablespoon comino seeds, freshly ground (cumin)

2 tablespoons Mexican oregano

Salt to tasteInstructions:

Place lightly floured beef and pork cubes in the pork and beef fat in a heavy chili pot and cook quickly, stirring often.

Add onions and garlic and cook until they are tender and limp

Add water to mixture and simmer slowly while preparing chiles

Remove stems and seeds from chiles and chop very finely

Grind chiles in molcajete and add oregano with salt to mixture

Remove fat pieces and skim off some fat

Never cook frijoles with chiles and meat

Serve as separate dish.

So where was chili invented? Again the background of chili only indicates there might not be an answer. We are aware that peppers and spices have existed since the start of time. Chile peppers Appear in the early foods of China, India, Indonesia, Italy, the Caribbean, France, and the Arab states. The green chile pepper was brought to what is now New Mexico in 1598. And strangely enough, Canary Islanders who came to San Antonio as early as 1723 used local peppers, wild onions, garlic, and other spices to cook sour meat dishes somewhat like the ones they prepared in their native land.

But it is reasonably clear how chili has been popularized. The credit has to go to the cattle trail hamburgers and certainly into the Chili Queens of San Antonio.

As a food, how significant is chili to certain parts of American life and culture?

Will we ever be able to crown one single recipe as the ideal? I don’t believe so, and that is fine with me. I think everyone has great fun attempting to do so.

The history of chili and its development makes me believe the great chili debate is destined to last forever.

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