Chili, Chilli, Chile! Spell it as you like. Chili, chili with beans, chili without beans. and even chili con
carne will have a definite meaning to the person using the word or combination of words. Eat it as you
What is Chili, Chilli, Chile? The dictionary says: first, a pepper hot or sweet; and second, a thick sauce
of meat and chilies. Experts in the chili world say it consists of meat, fat, a blend of chilies, paprika,
cumin, oregano, and garlic. The dictionary says: chili con carne, a spiced stew of ground beef and
minced chilies or chili powder usually with beans. So let the discussion rage loud and long. I like my
chili with beans. I reckon as long as you use chilies you can call it chili.
The chilies for blending chili powder are members of the capsicum family, having sixteen distinct
species all native to South America.
Ancient South American Indians prepared these chilies for their many uses by drying, boiling, roasting
and frying. They were used in one prepared form or another as medicine, meat preservative, insect
repellent, fumigating agent for living accommodations, bedbug repellent, cooking spice and hot sauce.
The Indians even used the smoke from burning capsicum peppers as a weapon against their enemies.
The Indians used these peppers 2000 to possibly 7000 years before Columbus arrived accidentally to
their land. Columbus took specimens back to Europe when he returned and the fiery pepper found its
way into continental food.
The capsicum pepper is the ingredient that gives chili its stand-out f flavor. As it originated in South
America it is hard to understand how the dish of chili is claimed to be native to America.
North American chili probably began in Mexico or Southwest Texas. Some claim that it originated with
the Mexican washerwomen who traveled north with the Mexican armies in the 1830's. When these
armies retreated the women stayed and worked for the Texas militiamen.
It became a popular dish with the cowboys driving large cattle herds from Texas to the railroads in the
The US Army recognized chili sometime before 1894 when a chili recipe was included in the "Manual for
Army Cooks, dated 1894".
Some insist that proper chili has only lean meat, without beans, others insist beans make the dish.
This battle goes on and probably defies resolution. Naturally the ingredients are subject for dispute.
However, if there is agreement it is that the ingredients include lean beef, onions, garlic, oregano,
cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, dried chilies or crushed red peppers,
Jalapaeno chilies, tomatoes, flour for thickening, vinegar, sugar, water, cooking oil and salt.
Chili aficionados usually claim a secret ingredient and a special method of cooking their own pure and
Meat is preferred by most chili makers, lean cut into cubes, chuck roast, ground round, even pork,
bacon, venison, buffalo, or caribou. President Johnson preferred his noted "LBJ Pedernales River Chili"
Most chili recipes require chili powder. Commercial chili powders are a blend and vary according to the
strength and proportion of the chilies used. Generally the brighter red the powder the more fiery hot
and the darker the powder the milder. Those having a source of raw chilies wishing to make their own
chili powder from scratch might like to start this basic
Chili powder-pungent, 1 part Cumin, 1 part
Chili powder-mild, 4 parts Oregano, 1-2 parts
Paprika, 4 parts Garlic powder,1-3 parts
So try a pot with your own chili powder mix either with or without beans.
There is a sizable world of "Chiliheads" (one who is a knowledgeable chili lover) in the world. To
indoctrinate the unknowing, there are two major organizations: the Chili Appreciation Society
International (CASI) founded in 1939 and the International Chili Society (ICS) founded in 1975.
There is a third, the International Connoisseurs of Green and Red Chilies (ICG&RC) founded in 1973.
To expand the number of 'Chiliheads', improve the standards of the world chili and recognize those
with outstanding abilities for making chili there are cookouts held annually in Terlingus, Texas by CASI
and in Rosemond. California by ICS.
There are even publications to spread the word throughout the chili world. Those interested contact:
CASI, Box 31181, Dallas, Texas; ICS Box 2966l Newport Beach, California; ICG&RC*11 North
Downtown Mall, Las Crucas, NM 38001. For those on the Internet try a Google search.
7 May. 28 Nov. 2002