Friday, November 16, 2007

Chili Today, Hot Tamale

We're having a chili cookoff in my office today, the first one we've had in the twenty-three years I've worked here. It may signal the end of Civilization as we know it.

Why? Well, to paraphrase the late H. Allen Smith, whose book, "The Great Chili Confrontation" has been one of my favorites since high school, a true Chilihead believes that HIS chili is the only one worth eating and that the chili of all others is slop that a coyote would turn away from. As I've looked around the various crockpots with bubbling concoctions from clericals and others lawyers in the office, I've already seen ingredients that I'd never even think about putting into MY chili (which is, of course, the best ever made by Man).

Chili has, for some reason or another, somewhat like BBQ, engendered all sorts of controversy and, occasionally, fistfights over which is the best. Texans, of course, rebel at the very idea of putting any kind of beans INTO the chili, preferring to have it, if at all, on the side. Others don't mind the beans, but will eschew all but the basics (meat, chili powder, onions, garlic and perhaps tomatoes), sticking up their noses at the wild concept of ingredients like bell peppers, mushrooms, truffles and even chocolate.

Me? I'm more of a purist, wanting to stick with the tried and true basics, though I do like beans in my chili. I don't generally use cubed meat (which would probably have me drummed out of the International Chili Appreciation Society), preferring hamburger for the most part. I used to like Two or Four Alarm Chili, which usually required one to blow his nose after taking one bite and was considered for many years as a good cure for sinus infections. However, as I've gotten older, I've discovered that my body has become less accepting of the nuclear option, so I've gone the route of the less hot, but more flavorful style. This time I've used a dried ancho chili, boiled and pureed, as part of my sauce, along with ancho chili powder and the usual hot stuff.

We'll see if the judges have the good sense and intelligence to make my chili the undisputed #1 after the tasting has been completed. If they don't, that will say a lot about their upbringing and general education in all things culinary. I may have to hunt them down.

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