Chilly Weather: Time for Chili

Published 9:23 am Wednesday, December 9, 2020

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I don’t need cold weather to make a bowl of chili, but on other hand, chilly temperatures get me to thinking about chili.

You know how many types of chili there are? Neither do I, but I would think that everyone who makes a pot of chili probably has their own way of going about it. Most of the time I take the easy route. I buy one of those mixes that come in a packet. There are about 18 dozen from which to choose. Not quite, but there are plenty!

My daddy made so much chili for us that we have a style that’s called “Papa’s Chili.” It’s just a packet of French’s Chili-O. It’s easy-O. Brown a pound of hamburger meat, add a can of tomatoes and a can of kidney beans and let it stew for about ten minutes. That’s it. Except, I think he mashed the kidney beans.

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Me? I use the McCormack Mild brand of chili mix and to make it thicker use a little more than a pound of meat.

Most folks figure that chili was a creation founded on the plains of Texas and probably by cowboys. After all, they had the cattle and chili peppers so they had their chuck wagon cook stew a little beef, not ground, but cut up in chunks, and flavor the beef with some hot peppers and that’s what they ate in those metal plates that we remember from Rawhide.

You probably could guess this, but the Texas legislature made chili the official state dish back in 1977. Also, Texas chili doesn’t allow for any additional ingredients to the meat and peppers. In other words, no beans and no tomatoes. Texans are very passionate about this and the saying in Texas goes something like this. “If you know beans about chili, you know there are no beans!”

Did you know there is an International Chili Society (ICS)? Of course you did. There is a society for everything and it’s the ICS that sets the rules and regulations for the popular chili cook-offs. Chili cook-offs are held in many places and it’s at the cook-offs that you will find many of the different varieties of chili.

The creation of chili might have begun in the American southwest, but it has spread throughout the nation and much of that popularity can be attributed to Lyman T. Davis. I know you want to know just who this Davis fellow is. He’s the first man to sell canned chili, a brand called Wolf Brand Chili.
One other person who had a lot to do with the popularity of this stew we call chili. William Frederick Gebhardt is credited with coming up with the idea to pulverize a blend of dried chilies enabling chili powder to be sold all over the country.

Although I take the easy route in making my chili, every now and then I harken back to a recipe of one of my school friend’s mother. I say that his mother, Mary Smith, made the best chili I have ever eaten.
Mrs. Smith would sauté a blend of green peppers and onions in a pan. I have forgotten exactly how much chili powder she would add, but it was the right amount for a mild chili. Then she would add the ground beef and brown it and mix it with the green peppers, onions, and chili powder. Then, the kidney beans and tomatoes were added and allowed to stew for a while.

I guess Mrs. Smith knew just how to stir because when she was finished she would put that concoction on a plate and all I needed was some slices of white bread. It was the best!

Enjoy these chilly days with a bowl of chili!