In another century they may claim that chili was invented in Chevy Chase in the late 1970s. Already, claims of chili origins have been made for the Aztecs and Mayans of Mexico and for the Pueblo and Papago Indians of the Southwestern United States. In Texas they claim chili was born in San Antonio, and, while they do know for sure that canned chili started there, they just don't know if they are proud of that .
But that was plain old everyday American style tough-beef-and-liquid-fire chili, and that you can get at any roadside stand or Texas banquet.
What was invented in Chevy Chase was Irish Chili and New Zealand Chilil and Szechuan Chili. And in Chevy Chase was invented Washington's Annual Chili-Bull contest.
The first ingredients for a Chili-Bull are two redheads named Susie (in this case, Susie Brown and Susie Davis) to dream up a chili cooking and story-telling contest. By the third annual, held in September, what a Chili-Bull took was 42 varieties of chili kept hot over coals, two judges kept cool with beer, a crowd of a couple hundred eaters (said to be 400, but that referred to their appetites rather than to single mouths), and mountains of Doritos for cleaning the palate. It helps to have at least six cowboy hats scattered through the crowd, and the one-man band of Bob Devlin to keep the noise level up. As a chili contest grows, it gets dressed up with charity raffles, but that could be the road to respectability and social relevance, therefore to destruction.
Let it be recorded that the official best chili at the Third Annual Chili Bull was a concoction by Stacy DeLano called Afternoon Delight (unfortunately it had been renamed from The Air Mail Special, which had the ring of history because its ingredients had been airmailed from Texas). It edged out only slightly Susie Brown's East Texas Tornado, a close decision because that recipe had the authenticity of real gristle and an aluminum foil lid. The Blazing Saddles award for the hottest chili went to Carol Garrison's Arkansas Razorback Chili, but that is a matter not of recipe but of effrontery. That all of this year's winning concoctions were made by women had absolutely nothing to do with affirmative action.
Chili is more than food for the belly. It is aesthetics (therefore, best names were condidered, with the main contenders being: Texas Tragedy, Last Year's Chili, Naturili, Hotter Than Houston Chili, and Wick's Irish Chili). It is tradition, the tradition being that you can - and people did - put anything in chili, including venison, avocados, olives, carrots, celery leaves, mustard, even a bottle of beer with the bottle.
Just don't expect such heresies to win a contest. Chili involves local pride (the entries claiming kinship with Cincinnati, Indiana, Arkansas, Baltimore, New Orleans, West Virginia, California, Manhattan, and the Texas towns of Raymondville, Terlingua and East Texas). Chili can be - and was - cooked in iron kettles and 50-quart aluminum stockpots. Dansk and Farberware and Revere, beanpots and crockpots. It can even be made with a can opener and a can of Clyde's Famous Chili from Britches.
Chili is said to reduce the aches of rheumatism, drive away warts and get rid of bedbugs. In any case, it can be the basis of a good party and a Washington tradition of several hundred people annually stomping through your backyard.
Here are the winners to get you started:
Serves 8 3 pounds chuck roast 2 pounds pork loin 1 medium onion 1-2 cloves garlic olive oil 2 pounds tomatoes 1 can tomato sauce (optional) 2-3 tablespoons chili powder 1 tablespoon ground cumin Salt to taste 1 teaspoon oregano 1 teaspoon tarragon 6 peppercorns 1 bay leaf 1 pound pinto or small red beans (not kidney beans),cooked 2cups chopped black olives 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch
Cut the meats into bitesize chunks and saute them with the onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil.Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce (if used), chili powder, cumin, salt and Oregano. Put tarragon, black pepper and a bay leaf in a perforated metal ball and drop into the middle of the pot. Cook chili for approximately 3 hours over low heat, adding water as necessary.
Ladle cooked beans into chili. Add black olives and cornstarch. (Cornstarch thickens and picks up the excess olive oil.) Enhance the flavor of the chili by heating and cooling it about four times before serving.
Afternoon Delight Chili
Serve 16 3 pounds flank steak, cubed 3-4 tablespoons oil 1 large red onion 2 tablespoons oregano 1 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons cumin 6 cloves of garlic, chopped 1 cup black coffee (cooked) 2 bays leaves 2 cans beef broth 1 tablespoon black pepper 1 large can tomato sauce 2 tablespoons vinegar 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon prepared mustard 9 tablespoons chili powder 3 fresh or 4 canned jalapeno peppers chopped fine. 1/2 bottle beer 3 tablespoons flour dissolved in a little of the beer
Brown the meat in the oil. Add the onion and saute until traslucent. Add the other ingredients and simmer for at least 2 hours. Add more beer or water if necessary.
(This recipe is adapted from a creation of the Arkansas Razorback Chili Team of Dallas County, Texas, captained by Fred Ralls.)
STACY DE LANO AND MILLIE WHITE
East Texas Tornado Chili
Serves 6 to 8 4 pounds filet mignon roast or other premium beef corn oil 1 can beer 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons red pepper 2 tablespoons cumin 5 tablespoons of chili powder 1 clove garlic 3/4 cup chopped onion 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/2 teaspoon paprika 16 ounces tomato sauce 6 cups water 8 ounces jar of sliced jalapeno peppers, drained 3 tablespoons masa flour
Cube the beef, toss it with some of the spices, the garlic and 1/4 cup of the onion, browing the mixture in a deep pot in enough corn oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Add all the other ingredients except the masa flour, and simmer very gently for 1 1/2 hours, adding extra water if the chili becomes too thick. When the meat is tender, skim off any excess grease. Make a thick paste of the masa flour and some water, and slowly add the paste to the chili, stirring until it is completely dissolved. Cook the chili a few more minutes to remove the flour taste.