NATIONAL CHILI WEEK
National Chili Week during the first week in October encourages you to cook up your favorite flavor of the historic red stew. When temperatures slide, raise the heat with a blend of spices, meat and if you like, add beans or other ingredients.
In fact, celebrate the entire month. It’s also National Chili Month. Varieties of chili seem endless. Every cook has a secret ingredient or combination of ingredients. It’s one of those recipes you can get creative with. A search for chili recipes will turn up soda chili, red wine chili, beer chili, hot dog chili, spaghetti chili, biker gang chili, and even chili with chocolate. Spanish chili con carne is literally translated ‘chili pepper with meat’.
One of the great debates of the 20th and 21st century has been the essential “MUST HAVES” of chili. Beans? Meat? Both?
History of Chili as an American Comfort Food
Oft-repeated legend of chili’s origin:
In 1731, sixteen families from the Canary Islands settled in San Antonio, Texas. These families founded San Antonio’s first civil government which became the first municipality in the Spanish province of Texas. According to historians, the women made a spicy “Spanish” stew similar to chili.
In 1828, food historian J.C. Clopper is widely credited with describing what we know today as chili: “When they [poor families of San Antonio] have to lay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for the family; it is generally cut into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat–this is all stewed together.”
Chuckwagons and Chili Queens
In the late 1800s, chili queens were a kind of original food truck. They set up mobile chili stands in public areas and for special events where people would congregate. Their trade became a major tourist attraction, and they were featured in the San Antonio booth at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.
From 1876 to 1903, chuckwagons fed the men on cattle drives, moving herds north from Texas to markets in northern states. They served chili with its own flavor and style. As the drives moved northward, the chuckwagons introduced it to northerners.
By the 20th century, chili joints scattered all over Texas. During the depression, chili parlors found a home in most small towns. They usually consisted of nothing more than a shed or room with a counter and some stools. Customers could get a bowl of chili, a slice of bread and a glass of water for about 10 cents. One story tells how Jesse James (1847-1882), outlaw and desperado of the old American West, once gave up a chance to rob a bank in McKinney, Texas. Why? Well, his favorite chili parlor was there, of course.
HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalChiliWeek
Celebrate National Chili Week in Texas by ordering a “bowl of red,” which is chili without beans. In Texas, “chili” is shorthand for chile con carne. The phrase translates to “chile peppers with meat” – no beans in sight.
In 1999, the Texas-based authority on chili, the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) outlawed including beans to be eligible for official competition. In fact, any chili with beans is considered a Yankee counterfeit. Chili Appreciation Society International members and friends raise funds for charities throughout the year by competing in sanctioned CASI chili cook-offs
Click here for a sample of recipes.
Visit the Chili Appreciation Society on Facebook.
How do you make your chili? Use #NationalChiliWeek to share on social media.
NATIONAL CHILI WEEK HISTORY
National Day Calendar® continues researching the origins of this savory food holiday.