It’s Chili Time Again!

Now that the Thanksgiving eatin’ is done, you may want to turn your attention to making some chili – particularly if it’s cold in your part of the country.  Legend has it that the spicy meat concoction was created by the chili queens of 1880s-era San Antonio who came up with the recipe we still use and enhance to this day.   A righteous pot of chili ought to contain some sort of beef, chiles (or chili powder) and tomato sauce if you roll that way.

The big argument is whether or not to add beans to chili.  Now most enlightened thinkers say no, beans take up space that more meat could better occupy.  My in-laws, who live up in New York state, swear up and down that true chili has beans in it but what do they know – they consider grilled weenies real barbecue.  I suppose you can put anything you want in chili – including turkey, pork, duck, even beans – but don’t put any of that stuff in mine.

Years ago I got this book, A Bowl of Red, by Texas writer Frank X. Tolbert and that’s supposed to be the bible of chili heads nationwide.   I kind of think this guy was full of bull (or Lone Star beer) when he wrote this book, because he even sings the praises of chili made at Chasen’s restaurant in Beverly Hills for movie stars, and he talks about how great some brands of canned chili are.  Well, I am partial to Wolf Brand in a can – but with no beans!

Anyway, the followers of this Tolbert fellow (he died a while back) still operate some kind of International Chili Appreciation Society and stage cookoffs in a place called Terlingua, along the Texas-Mexico border in the middle of freakin’ nowhere.  I never was a follower of organized religion, so I really don’t know what these chili heads stand for but like those beans, you are quite welcome to explore on your own.

My favorite recipe is the one I found on a postcard at the Lone Star Beer brewery some years back – it’s at the top of this post and if you click on it you can get to a large, readable version.

Chili is of course the national dish of Texas, and when you are in Austin there is one great place to get some chili.  It’s called the Texas Chili Parlor, and it’s located on Lavaca Street near the Capitol.  They have all kinds of chili and other stuff (their enchiladas are pretty tasty) and they’ll even put beans in your bowl for you while looking the other way.  If you order their super-hot XXXX chili, before they serve it you have to sign a release saying you won’t hold them responsible for a heart attack or any catastrophes in your underwear.

I like the chili over at Shady Grove too, that’s a pretty nice place.  San Antonio has a bunch of great places to get chili (try La Paloma on the Riverwalk) and in Houston, well, the best chili I’ve had here is at my house.  Check out the recipe above and play some of these tunes.  Enjoy your chili, with or without beans (remember to open a window), and here’s hoping it keeps you warm this winter!

MP3: “National Chili Anthem” by Isaac Payton Sweat

MP3: “The Chili Song” (live) by Gary P. Nunn

MP3: “Dublin Blues” (live) by Guy Clark

MP3: “What I Like About Texas” by Jerry Jeff Walker

MP3: “Endless Ways” by Ryan Bingham

MP3: “Well All Right” by Los Lonely Boys

MP3: “Truckstop In La Grange” by Grady

MP3: “Austin Night” by the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

MP3: “The Rose Hotel” by Robert Earl Keen

MP3: “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other” by Willie Nelson


Terlingua International Chili Cookoff official website

Recipe for Frank X. Tolbert’s original Bowl of Red

One Response to “It’s Chili Time Again!”

  1. Chasen’s is gone now, and I never had their chili. It would surprise me if it had been really great. But, I was surprised by the bowl served at the Lucky 7 restaurant at Main Street Station in Las Vegas, downtown no less. Actual pieces of steak with black beans. It was fantastic. That was probably five years ago, so I don’t know if it’s still on the menu.

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