The History Behind Chili

The history behind chili is a murky history of the past. One thing I can certainly assure you of friends, our favorite fall tailgate food surely did not originate in any part of Mexico by any means. As a matter of fact, every time I have ever asked anyone from Mexico or of Mexican descent, if chili was a spin-off of an old Mexican recipe, they will be the first to deny any claims to it.

Awhile back, I  read somewhere on the net a harsh quote from the Diccionario de Mexicanismos, that was published in 1959, it simply roughly translates chili con carne as: “Detestable food passing off as a Mexican cuisine, sold in the U.S. from Texas to New York.” Where does one go from that harsh rough translation of one of America’s favorite fall recipes to date?

Chili was a favorite of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. His favorite recipe for Chili became known as Pedernales River chili after the location of his Texas ranch. President Johnson preferred to add venison in his chili, which is more leaner than beef. One could probably speculate that it was due to his bad heart. The First Lady had the President’s favorite recipe printed on cards to be mailed out since there were thousands of requests for it.

Where did chili get its great start?

Legend has it, one possible starting point of chili aka nicknamed “The Soup of the Devil” by Spanish priests, may have come from Sister Mary of Agreda, a Spanish nun in the early 1600s who never managed to leave her convent, yet legend has it that she had out-of-body experiences in which her spirit was carried across the great Atlantic ocean to teach Christianity to the Indians. After one of the return trips, her spirit wrote down the first recipe for chili con carne: chili peppers, venison, onions, and tomatoes. I laugh at the thought of this one each time I read or hear it.

Another tale of Chili History goes that the Canary Islanders that came to San Antonio around the year of 1723, used local ingredients such as peppers and wild grown onions combined with different types of meats to create early renditions of chili. Sounds somewhat legit–more legit than Sister Mary of Agreda’s spirit clad in blue in the desert, but hey who am I to judge?

Did you know?

  • The Lone Star state was dubbed Chili con carne the Star’s official food in 1977?
  • Texas Red Chili is a highly potent, strong-smelling concoction that has a no-frills approach to chili: simply meat, spices, and as many chiles as you can handle. To most Texan resident chili enthusiasts, anything else just can’t be considered chili.
  • President Johnson once said, “Chili concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing”
  • In 1993 the state legislature of Illinois named Springfield, IL  “The Chilli Capital of the Civilized World.” At its peak, Springfield boasted over a dozen chili parlors, three chili canners and exports of over four million cans per year.
  • Cincinnati-style Chili is in stark contrast to Texan-style chili, developed during the Roaring Twenties from Greek roots, this thin chili uses Mediterranean spices such as cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and even cocoa. Cincinnati chili is served over spaghetti with various toppings.’National Chil Day is always every 4th Thursday of the month of February.

See an old family favorite recipe for my easy to make Crock-pot Beer Chili with Beans

© Heidy L. McCallum and The McCallum’s Shamrock Patch, 2017-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Heidy L. McCallum and The McCallum’s Shamrock Patch with proper and specific direction to the original content

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