The classic argument surrounding chili is “beans or no beans”. However, the definition of what constitutes as “chili” and how it originated is much more complex than that. There are references to the dish as far back as the 17th century and apparently a mystic nun was the first to put pen to paper and record a recipe. She included venison, antelope meat, onions, tomatoes, and peppers in her bowl o’red. The development of chili has also been attributed to Canary Islanders who made their way to Texas and mixed local peppers, wild onions, and various meats.
Other accounts of the dish’s history include stories of dried meat pounded with spices and rehydrated in boiling water while on the trail, chili being developed as a form of cheap prison food, or a slow cooked pepper and meat hash eaten by the poor of San Antonio. In fact, San Antonio seems to play an integral role in the history of this stew. In the 1880s chili stands popped up in the city and the dish was featured at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago at the San Antonio Chili Stand.
You will see many unique takes on “chili” in this blog. In order to keep myself somewhat reigned in, so I wouldn’t stray too far from the spirit of the dish, I gave myself a few ground rules:
- Chili must contain a chili: Dried, roasted, fresh, powdered- all valid forms
- Chili must be stewed: Cooked slowly in a liquid in a closed dish or pan
- Chili must have a thickened broth. I’m not picky about the type of thickener used, but it should result in a sauce that is sturdy enough to suspend the rest of the chili ingredients.
So, with my rules in place, off we go to explore my world of chili!