Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chili Controversy

In “Chili For One” I wrote about my East Texas Chili and how I came up with it, and I’ve received a lot of complaints that it isn’t a “true Texas chili.”  The idea of flavor was first and foremost when I developed this recipe, and I don’t apologize for making a chili that tastes good.  Yes, I added beans and tomatoes, and I call it a Texas Chili.  I don’t call it a True Texas Chili, but I do question what makes a “true Texas chili.”

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas.  I grew up in Texas.  I lived there 26 years before moving out of the state, but I still have family and friends in Texas.  My Texas roots can be traced back to the 1830’s through one branch of the family, the 1820’s through another branch of the family, and there is evidence a portion of my history may go back to the 1500’s.  I believe I have the background to call the chili I developed in Texas a Texas Chili.

My Texas family made chili.  Sometimes it had beans, and sometime it did not have beans.  Sometimes it had tomatoes, and sometimes it did not have tomatoes.  Sometimes it had meat, and sometimes it did not have meat.  Sometimes it was red, and sometimes it was green.  All of it was made in Texas by Texans.

I’ve eaten chili in 48 of the 50 states (I’ve missed Maine and Florida) as well as D.C., and I’ve eaten chili in Canada, Mexico, France, England, Germany, Italy, and Spain.  Some I enjoyed more than others, but every one was worth trying. 

I know about “purists.”  Most of us contain some degree of pride about one thing or another.  Chili purists are no different from Barbeque purists.  (Notice how I spelled ‘barbeque’.)  We all have our likes and dislikes.  That’s what makes for many different recipes.  The beauty of diversity is the escape from boredom and the mundane. 

I do like beanless and/or tomatoless chili as well as beaned and/or tomatoed chili.  I also like it over spaghetti.  I’ve had chili over Fritos, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, potato salad, and green beans (again, some I enjoyed more than others), but the interesting thing is all of this was in Texas.  In one of the revered chili pots of San Antonio, I had a fantastic meatless chili with beans and tomatoes.  And it was made in the tiny restaurant of a family who were decedents of the original “Chili Queens.”

Chili seems to have originated with the ingredients on hand.  Peppers, fresh and dried, were in most kitchens, as were beans.  Tomatoes grew in many gardens alongside of onions.  Beef was plentiful, and goats were everywhere.  Goats in Texas chili??  Yes.  And good Texas chili at that.  (I’ll write about goats in Texas cuisine another time.)

All of this gets me back to where I started, if it’s not any good, it doesn’t matter if it’s a “true Texas chili,” it’s just not any good.  See “Chili For One.”

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