Too spicy for you? You can make a milder version; it all depends on what you put into the dish!
National Chili Day falls annually on the 4th Thursday in February and was originally started to celebrate Chili con Carne, usually made with beef, tomatoes and beans, but the recipe can vary according to where you are. Over the years people have added onions, peppers, corn – all sorts of ingredients subject to where they live and their personal tastes. The chili that was produced back in the 1800s was attributed to Mexican cuisine, but both Spanish and native Americans pat themselves on the back for inventing it as well.
Mentions of the dish in historical literature date back to the 1600s, but the first real verified entries were made by a man from Houston, Mr J C Clopper. He never used the word ‘chili’, but merely described it as something that poor San Antonio families ate as a stew with any type of meat and plenty of peppers, as meat was so scarce for them.
Whilst the Chinese and Indian nations have been serving food in markets and on the street from way, way back, it wasn’t until 1823 that chili stalls began to be set up by women, who were called ‘the chili queens’, and there on in the story of chili and its prevalence in the American diet really became known.
‘Chili joints and chili parlours’ as they were known, grew at a rapid rate through the 1900s, especially around the Roaring Twenties, often merely served in a roadside shack. Historians say that chili became the dish to eat during the Great Depression, providing sustenance and a way of staying alive. It was cheap, it was cheerful, and you got free crackers with it!
Some chili connoisseurs are advocates of venison as opposed to beef, one of the main worshippers being ex-President Lyndon B Johnson, who even has a chili named after his ranch in Texas. Chili is now known as the state dish of Texas!
Favourite Chili Recipes
As we said, every area, region or country has their own favourite version and, in the US, it is usually celebrated with competitions throughout many of the states, particularly in the south. The most notable names for chili dishes and those most favoured are:
- Texas Bowl of Red – this chili has no beans in it and is generally made with lean beef, beef suet and as many peppers and spices as you can cram in.
- Cincinnati Five-Way – Unusually served with pasta with beef, refried beans, grated cheese, crushed crackers and onions (makes me feel full up just writing it!)
- St. Louis Slinger – A hamburger or beef patty served with hash browns and eggs, slathered in chili, cheese and onions.
- New Mexico Green Chili Stew – this is made with pork, peppers, spices and green chilis (phew, mouth is stinging already).
Do you have a favourite recipe? If so, we would love to hear about it.
Some fun facts about chili
If you want to speed up your metabolic rate, eat chilis, extremely hot ones, as these set off a thermodynamic burn in the body and consequently burning up those dreaded calories.
There are about 4,000 varieties of chilis cultivated throughout the world! The Scoville Scale (named after its inventor) is a scale that measures the heat value and pungency of a chili, ranging from absolutely Atomic when it knocks your head off, to Zero, ‘very mild’ is the statement, but judging by my palate I would tend to disagree.
Get your mega-dose of Vitamin C. A green chili has as much Vitamin C as 6 oranges!
Cold feet – put some chili powder in your shoes to keep your feet warm, as some cultures do (honestly, no exaggeration).
The first ever chili cook-off competition was held in a small town in Texas in 1967. If there is one near you, give it a try!
A man in a small town in Texas ate 8 bowls of chili that were apparently off the Scoville scale at its highest point. Consequently he was given an award and later made a sheriff of the town for his fortitude!
Whether you like it hot or not, chili is here to stay in the American diet and throughout most of Europe.
Originally published February 2022