A chili forecast

H. Allen Smith, on the deadly serious subject of chili, as quoted here in 2005:

Mr. [Frank X.] Tolbert of Dallas, who appears to be spokesman for the group called the International Chili Appreciation Society, declares that acceptable chili should contain no tomatoes, no onions, and no beans. This is a thing that passeth all understanding, going full speed. It offends my sensibility and violates my mind. Mr. Tolbert criticizes Lyndon Johnson’s chili recipe because it leaves out beef suet and includes tomatoes and onions. Yet the President’s chili contains no beans. To create chili without beans, either added to the pot or served on the side, is to flout one of the basic laws of nature. I’ve been told that when I was a baby and it came time to wean me, I was fed Eagle Brand Milk with navy beans frappéd into it. Thereafter, all through childhood and adolescence, I ate beans three for four times a week. If Chili Bill, back there in Illinois, had served his chili without beans, I would surely have deserted him and bought chocolate sodas for my lunch.

Roberta X, not so far from Illinois, explains this further:

Tam and people in the southwestern U.S. look askance at what we call chili up here in soybean-and-corn country. It’s a flavorful stew with ground beef, canned tomatoes, red kidney beans, onion, a little chili powder and, typically, elbow macaroni. I skipped the pasta and added a small can of mild green chilis, some hot Italian sausage with the beef, a single fresh tomato along with the canned, and good dark chili powder. It’s still nothing a Texan would call chili, so I put the word in quotes or name it by describing the contents, in order to avoid a long conversation on what does and does not constitute chili. In truth, “chili” is whatever you call chili, usually a red stew with meat, much as “science fiction” is whatever science fiction readers read, usually about the future.

Which is true, I suppose, even in Cincinnati.



  1. fillyjonk »

    2 October 2016 · 9:17 am

    I joke that I make “Arizona Chili,” not “Texas Chili” because some of the Texas chili-heads are the ones with anti-bean bigotry. (The “Arizona” chili I make is modified from a recipe in the Arizona Highways cookbook).

    I have a recipe for Cincinnati chili; never have tried it because the list of spices it calls for is daunting (it even has cocoa powder in it; I understand the function of that in the whole but still question its inclusion). Still, I’m really tempted to make a batch the next time our Wildlife Club has a chili cook-off and enter it, just to see people’s heads explode a little.

    Where I grew up (Northeastern Ohio), chili was usually served over rice and with crackers on the side. A little more north of me they often made “Chili Soup,” which had ditalini macaroni in it and either broth or tomato juice.

  2. zigzag »

    2 October 2016 · 2:56 pm

    needs more barley. also Sambar powder.

  3. fillyjonk »

    2 October 2016 · 5:16 pm

    Heh. The “barley” comment reminds me of the time my brother and some of his buddies entered a fake recipe in his university’s chili cook-off recipe contest: they mashed up a vegetarian chili recipe and one for Ezekiel bread (my brother and his friends were strange birds). They called it “Penance Chili,” partly because of the Ezekiel connection but partly because they figured it would taste atrocious. (They did not actually make it).

    The really funny thing? It won in the vegetarian category and actually showed up once or twice (not under the name they gave it) on the cafeteria’s menu.

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