Chili Con Carne

Chili (or in Texas, known formally as chili con carne) is a spicy stew-like dish, the essential ingredients of which are beef, pork, venison, or other mature meat, and chile peppers. Variations, either geographic or by personal preference may add tomatoes, onions, beans, and other ingredients. There are also many versions of vegetarian chili, made without meat (sometimes with a meat substitute). The name "chili con carne" is a slight corruption of the Spanish chile con carne, which means "chili with meat". Chili con carne is the official dish of the U.S. state of Texas.

Origins and history
Chili has its origins in Texas. One theory holds that it emerged in the late 1840s, as the local equivalent of pemmican. This consisted of dried beef, suet, dried chiles (usually chilipiquenes), and salt, which were pounded together and left to dry into bricks, which could then be boiled in pots on the trail. An alternative and more widely-accepted theory holds that chili con carne was born in San Antonio in the 1880s as a way of stretching available meat in the kitchens of poor Tejanos. Despite popular perception, it is not native to Mexico.

"Chili, as we know it in the United States, cannot be found in Mexico today except in a few spots which cater to tourists. If chili had come from Mexico, it would still be there. For Mexicans, especially those of Indian ancestry, do not change their culinary customs from one generation–or even from one century–to another." (Ramsdell, San Antonio)
A "San Antonio Chili Stand" was in operation at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and this helped spread a taste for chili to other parts of the country. Furthermore, San Antonio was a significant tourist destination, and Texas-style chili con carne spread throughout the South and West.

Chili queens
During the 1880s, brightly-dressed Hispanic women known as "Chili Queens" began to operate around Military Plaza and other public gathering places in downtown San Antonio. They would appear at dusk, building charcoal or wood fires to reheat cauldrons of pre-cooked chili, selling it by the bowl to passers-by. The aroma was a potent sales pitch, aided by Mariachi street musicians, who joined in to serenade the eaters. Some Chili Queens later built semi-permanent stalls in the mercado, or local Mexican marketplace.

In September 1937, the San Antonio health department implemented new sanitary regulations which required the Chili Queens to adhere to the same standards as indoor restaurants. The "street chili" culture disappeared overnight. Although [San Antonio Light, 12 September 1937 Mayor Maury Maverick reinstated their privileges in 1939, the more stringent regulations were reapplied permanently in 1943.

San Antonio's mercado was renovated in the 1970s, at which time it was the largest Mexican marketplace in the U.S. Local merchants began staging historic re-enactments of the Chili Queens' heyday, and the "Return of the Chili Queens Festival" is now part of that city's annual Memorial Day festivities.

Chili parlors
Before World War II, hundreds of small, family-run chili parlors (also known as "chili joints") could be found throughout Texas and other states, particularly those in which emigré Texans had made their new homes. Each establishment usually had a claim to some kind of "secret recipe".

One of the best known chili parlors, in part because of its location and socially-connected clientele, was Bob Pool's "joint" in downtown Dallas, just across the street from the headquarters of popular department store Neiman Marcus. Stanley Marcus, president of the store, frequently ate there, and sent containers of Pool's chili to friends and customers across the country by air express. Several members of General Dwight Eisenhower's SHAPE staff during the early 1950s were reported to have arranged regular shipments from Pool's to Paris.

Texas chili recipes
Original Texas-style chili
This contains no vegetables except chilies which have been prepared by being boiled, peeled, and chopped. The meat is simply bite-size – traditionally, the size of a pecan nut – or coarsely ground, with 1/2-inch plate holes in a meat grinder as standard. It must always be beef, venison, or other mature meats. Stewing meat also works well. Prime beef and veal, on the other hand, are not suitable for chili, as they tend not to remain solid. Many cooks omit the suet as being much too greasy, although it does add flavor, and Ancho or Anaheim peppers are recommended. For an "elevated" flavor, one uses four pepper pods per pound of meat; for a milder "beginners'" version, use only 2-3 pods. Chili powder is a barely adequate substitute in the original recipe; it lacks the subtle sting of the pods. (A heaping teaspoon of chili powder is the approximate equivalent of one average-size chile pod.)

Jailhouse chili
In the early part of the 20th century, those likely to regularly spend time in local detention facilities in the American Southwest were said to rate the accommodations among themselves by the quality of the chili they were served. This became a matter of local pride and competition with other communities.

This modern version, as served in the Texas prison system, more or less follows the cooking procedure of the Original Texas-Style recipe.

Pedernales River chili
President Lyndon Johnson's favorite chili recipe became known as "Pedernales River chili" after the location of his Texas Hill Country ranch. It calls for leaving out the traditional beef suet (on doctor's orders after his heart attack while he was U.S. Senate Majority Leader) and also adds tomatoes and onions. LBJ preferred venison, when available, over beef; Hill Country deer were thought to be leaner than most. First Lady Lady Bird Johnson had it printed up on cards as a mail-out because of the many thousands of requests the White House received for the recipe.

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