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Chili weather

Would you agree? A bowl of chili goes very well with chilly weather.

I was thinking about chili this morning as the temperature hovered around that freezing mark. I said to myself, “This is a good day to make a pot of chili.”

Then I started thinking about just who invented chili or, as most of us know it, chili con carne. That’s Spanish for chili-with-meat. So you wouldn’t have to, I looked up chili to see just how it came about.

I first thought of our neighbors to the south, Mexico. Surely, with all the emphasis on peppers that nation has with its dishes, Mexico probably invented chili. I was surprised to find that Mexico does not lay claim to the introduction of chili to the world.

It’s easy to imagine that the dish originated in the southwest land of our U.S. and on some cattle drive. Remember the television western series Rawhide? In addition to a young Clint Eastwood, there was the cook, Wishbone. I’m sure Wishbone cooked a pot a chili somewhere along the trail. At least that’s what it seemed he dished out on those metal plates. They called it grub.

For the origin of chili, I guess one would need to define what is meant by the word. Most of us, define chili as some kind of meat, probably ground beef, mixed with tomatoes, beans, and chili powder. Most of us use the chili mixes we find in the sauce section of the store.

At the same time, there are as many recipes and kinds of chili as there are families. Every family has their own way of making chili. Some use beans, some don’t. There’s tomatoes and there’s tomato sauce. There’s beef, turkey, venison, and some make vegetarian chili. For my money, I want mine “con carne,” that is with meat!

I read of one interesting and far-fetched account of the history of chili. There was a Spanish nun in the early 1600’s who never left her convent, at least physically. She did “leave” the convent often in out-of-body experiences; that is in her spirit.

In one of those experiences she crossed the Atlantic Ocean to preach Christianity to the Native American Indians. Once, she returned and, in her spirit, wrote down the first recipe for chili con carne: chili peppers, venison, onions, and tomatoes. I told you it was “far-fetched.”

There was this description of chili from a Mr.  J.C. Cooper, who lived in Houston. Cooper visited San Antonio, Texas in 1828 and wrote, “when the poor families of San Antonio have to pay for their meat in the markets a very little is made to suffice for the family; it is cut into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat—then stewed together.” Sounds like chili to me.

It doesn’t surprise me, but chili with meat is the official dish of the state of Texas. Two famous people who loved chili and took cases of canned chili wherever they traveled were American humorist Will Rogers and the Texas Troubadour Ernest Tubb.

I love chili, too. Some of the best chili I have eaten is made from scratch, but I also like the easy-made from a packet kind.

As the Christmas song goes, “When the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful,” just make a pot of chili and enjoy that warm concoction of meat, tomatoes, beans, and chili pepper. And the good thing about it, you can eat it tomorrow and it will be just as good. As the French say, “Bon Appetit,” or since we are talking about an American dish, “I hope you enjoy your chili!”