Chili Cooking Basic Fitness Plan

Nearly everything about chili is controversial including the spelling. The spelling, chili, is probably taken from the Midwestern or Eastern spelling, which came from the British chilley.

The chile spelling is Spanish and describes the pod and is generally used to describe "chile" dishes in Mexican cooking. As I stated in my Chili Madness book, "In this book, which is written for all serious chili lovers--"chiliheads" as they are known in the West--we are using the "chili" spelling for the dish, the "chile: spelling for the peppers, and "chili powder" for the commerical premixed blends."

Chili is very popular in the United States and has been for quite some time. As I stated in my Chili Madness book, one of my very best sellers which I wrote in 1980 and was just released in a revised and expanded format--"Whenever I meet someone who does not consider chili a favorite dish, then I've usually found someone who has never tasted good chili.

No other food has inspired the passionate following that this dish has. I mean, I have yet to hear of a society dedicated to the appreciation of cheesecake, or a newspaper that deals solely with croissants, or renowned chefs quarreling over the ingredients for chocolate mousse.

Yet chili has all of these elements--dedicated societies, newspapers and quarrels, even a prayer--and much more. Something in the personality of this bowl of fire gave birth to an international cult movement. Chili lovers come from every walk of life. Chili attracts truck drivers, celebrities, doctors, lawyers, and schoolteachers. Rich and poor undergo a Jekyll/Hyde-like transformation and mild-mannered pillars of the community show no mercy when the topic of conversation turns to controversial chili."

And the story goes on.....There are many contests--hundreds of them to determine who can prepare the best bowl!

Chiles possess a magical substance--capsaicin, which is what drives the craving. Since chili has a substantial amount of chiles, no wonder all who try it most often "get hooked".

Then secondly, chili can be made so very many ways...creating controversy over just which is the best way. With the endorphins driving the craving for chili--it is probably not too amazing that there are myriads of ways chili can be made and enjoyed.

Because, people create recipes or methods for making dishes they like with ingredients that they have on hand and like. They call on their backgrounds and countless other influences.

Just to name a few of the variations, the Greek community in Cincinnati gave us their famous chili. In Texas, chili is almost always served without beans--beans are an accompaniment, not an ingredient. In New Mexico, beef is not as popular as pork and the chili has a great deal more red chile in it.

One of the biggest disagreements comes from whether to put beans in chili. Most chili competitions will not allow beans. My Grandfather who was an executive with the Santa Fe Railroad and got to know a number of the cookies who cooked the trail for the cattle drives always said that the beans came in as they went through Oklahoma.

You see, when they were driving the cattle to market, chili was their main food three times a day. It was practical and easy to serve and did not spoil when it was heated three times a day. With chili containing a high percentage of red chile--the world's best anti-oxidant, spoilage prevention was better assured.

The reason for the addition of beans was that as they neared the rail head in Dodge City, Kansas--sometimes the chili in the pot was getting kind of thin or low and to thin it out, they added beans. As they progressed into Kansas-tomotoes were even added to bring back the red color.

So you see, if from Texas there were never any beans!!! In fact, the Chili Anthem chants that fact in the song.

Chili, due to it's convenience was also served to the school children, in the jails and to the Confederate Army marching out of Texas. Actually the combination spice, chili powder was invented by a German immigrant for this army--his name was Gebhart. His chili powder is still being sold.

Another interesting piece of history is that the School Board in San Antonio, Texas, outlawed chili to be served in their schools for about three decades due to the fact that some of the Board members felt that if the soup was served in the jails, it could be tainted. They called it the soup of the devil.

To make award winning chili--

1. Always select a large heavy pot with straight sides and a flat bottom. Forget the lid. Leaving the lid off allows for the liquid to evaporate more quickly and for the flavors to blend together better.

2. Always select the freshest and best quality ingredients. Fresh pure chiles are much better than the combination spice, which blends chiles with salt, and other flavorings. Pure chiles can always be ordered from Pecos Valley Spice Co., or by calling 1-800-473-8226.

3. Select good quality beef chuck for the meat if using meat. For the best results, hand cut the beef into 1/2 inch cubes.

4. Always simmer chili for several hours to blend the flavors. I think chili is best if made, cooled or frozen a few hours up to a few months and then heated again to serve.

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