The real ‘bowl of red’!


It seems the real bowl of red is in fact vegetarian!

‘Chili, a new world recipe, originally meant beans served in a spicy tomato sauce. This nutritionally balanced combination was known to ancient Aztec and Mayan cooks.’

But this has been forgotten (and unfortunately for me) has been given up in favour of the Americanised Mexican version – Chili con carne. So Chili is Chili con carne. And that’s that.

Myth #1 Chili is Mexican – No!

Chili is Tex-Mex!

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“Tex-Mex food might be described as native foreign food, contradictory through that term may seem, It is native, for it does not exist elsewhere; it was born on this soil. But it is foreign in that its inspiration came from an alien cuisine; that it has never merged into the mainstream of American cooking and remains alive almost solely in the region where it originated…”
Eating in America, Waverly Root & Richard de Rochemont [William Morrow:New York] 1976 (p. 281)

It is an amalgam of Northern Mexican peasant food with Texas farm and cowboy fare.

It was something that cowboys could cook or heat up while marauding on their horses.


Historians of heat can find no documented evidence of chili in Texas before 1880. Around that time in San Antonio, a municipal market–El Mercado–was operating in Military Plaza. Historian Charles Ramsdell noted that “the first rickety chili stands” were set up in this marketplace, with bols o’red sold by women who were called “chili queens.”…A bowl o’red cost visitors like O. Henry and William Jennings Bryan a mere dime and was served with bread and a glass of water…The fame of chili con carne began to spread and the dish soon became a major tourist attraction…At the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, a bowl o’red was availabe at the “San Antonio Chili Stand.”

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Myth Number # 2 Chili has beans in it – No, beans were only introduced later!

Apparently there is even a song in Texas:  “if you know beans about chili, you know that chili has no beans”.

But here is the quirk. The Aztec-Mayan Chili was made with beans. Aztec-Mayan chili was forgotten, then came the San Antonian Chili, without beans. Some poor San Antonian couldn’t afford anything else, and reintroduced beans – or went back to the ancient Chili!

Everything about chili con carne generates some sort of controversy- the spelling of the name, the origin of the dish, the proper ingredients for a great recipe…

So at long last, I did what any good litigator will do, we look at who the judges of the UKCCA are and what they have said! – UKCCA chili Judge gives tips before a CC-O

Here is the stuff she recommends goes into making a spice mix. A good one (using around 1-2tsp of each depending on taste)  is:

Cumin seeds
Coriander seeds
Cocoa powder
Black pepper
Chilli powder

But others will swear by using garlic, cayenne pepper, jalapeno peppers, cumin and red/green peppers…

So cocoa powder – translated as chocolate is ok! Who hooo!

Fun facts about chillies

  • Chilies are high in Vitamins A and C. They are reported to help lower blood pressure.
  • It isn’t the seeds that are spicy. The heat comes from the veins that hold the seeds.
  • The smaller and thinner the pepper, the hotter it will be.
  • Chillies aren’t related to black pepper. They are related to tomatoes and eggplants — the nightshade family.

If you want to read in-depth about Chili, go to my sources



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