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Cuisine: AmericanMain Ingredient:
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Most Americans think that the wonderful rich, beefy, and beany dish that we call chili came from some other culture. Mexico, perhaps, or Spain. Not so. I am afraid that both Mexico and Spain refuse to have anything to do with what we call good old American chili. One Mexican dictionary goes so far as to scornfully describe chili as "A detestable food with a false Mexican name sold in the United States from Texas to New York City." Hey, watch that! The rest of the country loves chili, too! The original dish is truly American, though I have found that a lot of Americans in different locales claim that it was invented in their backyard. After much research (two days) I have come to the following unquestionable decision. Chili was invented in San Antonio, Texas, in 1840. It was a blend of dried beef, beef fat, chili powder and spices, and salt. It was pressed into a brick and it was so potent that it would not spoil quickly. It was then taken by the prospectors to the California gold fields. There it could be reconstituted with water and cooked with beans. It was very much like the pemmican that had been used in earlier times but with spices added. Please note that there is a difference between plain powdered chile and chili powder. Chili powder is a mixture of spices. See hint below. San Antonio has the distinct privilege in history of laying claim to "Chili Queens." These ladies had little carts and tables and would appear late in the evening and sell chili and whatnot. . . . I expect more whatnot was sold than chili. They were forced to close down in 1943 due to city health regulations of some sort . . . mostly sort. I would have thought that all of Texas would have been involved in wonderful chili. But in 1890, when chili arrived in McKinney, a town just north of Dallas, all blazes broke loose. It seems that some wayward ministers claimed that chili was "the soup of the devil--food as hot as hells brimstone." I wonder if these clergy ever bothered to taste a good pot of chili. This very American dish spread throughout the country and in 1985 the canned chili industry (Lord, only in America) claimed that 240 million pounds had been sold, grossing $254 million. I am repulsed by canned chili and I urge you to make your own. It is not complex and you will become famous in your own dining room. CHILE PODS: You need to decide what kind of chile pods you wish to use for your own chili. See "CHILES, TYPES OF" for a discussion of the red pods. PLAIN CHILI POWDER: If a recipe calls for plain chili powder, then you ask the merchant in your Mexican or Latin American shop for just that. You do not want spices in the mixture. HINT: ON MAKING YOUR OWN CHILI POWDER. Remember that chile and chili are different. Chile is ground chile pods. Chili is a blend of spices. Commercial chili powders are made of ground chile (see above for your kind), ground cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Some even contain sugar. I would suggest the proportions described in the list of ingredients. Place all in your medium-sized food processor or food blender and grind until fine. Use as you will in your chili recipes. Your version will have a much brighter flavor than commercial chili powder. If you wish to make it hotter, add cayenne pepper to taste. You will have your own blend going in no time. From
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