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Chili by any other name


Not About Food 37

Chili by any other name

Father Kitchen | Feb 27, 2008 12:40 PM

In several threads recently, there have been some almost vitriolic exchanges of opinion about what constitutes real chili, whether it is proper to call it "Bowl of Red," and whether Cincinnati style chili has a right to be called chili.

If we remember that the spread of the dish owes a lot to the depression era where people in Texas and outside of it were desparately hungry and desparately poor, then we might be willing to accept that other versions of the dish aren't entirely without merit. (see John Thorne's discussion in "Serious Pig." Greek cooking uses cinnamon often with beef. And the idea of using chili as a spaghetti sauce isn't all that bad. Would an Italian recognize it? And, glory be to God, almost everything that passes for barbecue isn't barbecue at all. It is simply slathered with a spicy sweet-sour sauce.

My point is that culinary fusion is part of American life. It happens whether we like it or not. I've had stir fried beef and tomatoes in Chinatown, San Francisco (in a back hole restaurant where I was taken by a Chinese friend--dinner was 75 cents in 1965).

And so we have so many different versions of Pizza, that purists would call down the wrath of God on the perpetrators. And what they did to classic casseroles and quiches in the fifties and sixties was mostly unspeakable. But we've survived it and got a few interesting dishes out of all that. And it looks like Cincinnati style chili will be around for a long time. So I don't mind seeing it on the menu of the Hard Times Cafe, though I go for the Texas version, without beans. But since we all have our pet peaves, mine is what passes for cornbread. It is really a sweetened cake. Give me something that is 100% freshly milled corn any day of the week.

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