A Bowl of Red, AKA a Plate of No Beans
January 30, 2015 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Don't Mess With Texas' Chili. 'So when a cookbook author like Mark Bittman writes—in How to Cook Everything—that chili means “slow-cooked red beans seasoned with cumin and chiles,” he betrays his ignorance of the dish and its history. When he writes that a true chili dish, one made with meat and no beans, has “entered the realm of cassoulet,” he might confuse chili-heads who don’t know what cassoulet means—but they’ll always recognize when someone’s messin’ with Texas. It’s when Bittman advises amateur cooks to make chili with tofu or espresso that he is doing something worse than disrespecting the dish—he is suggesting that the names of foods can mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean.'

Somehow the misguided folks at Cook's Country escape the criticism they deserve for their crimes against chili. For that matter their taste in salsa is also suspect. Get a rope.
posted by fedward (307 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nobody cares what you put on top of chili. Cilantro, cheese, sour cream—have a party.

I'll have beans please, and if you can simmer them with the chili that would be great.
posted by furtive at 11:45 AM on January 30, 2015 [52 favorites]


Haha, I love tofu in my chili and have made his espresso recipe a bunch of times. It's fantastic.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:46 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


What I came to understand, when learning more about chili, is that beans are very much about adding texture for variants that use ground meat instead of bite-size chunks. It's adding more firmness to each bite. Beans are never appropriate for any chili that contains chunks of meat, since that becomes just too much. I think it's also strongly tied to the more midwestern chili that uses cumin, too.

I support that view - I'm fine with beans or without, just as long as it balances out other choices. Doesn't matter so much though since going vegetarian. Though I might give it a try using seitan in bite-size pieces, at which point I'd pass on the beans.

Either way, "real chili" starts with beef, chiles, garlic, and oregano. *EVERYTHING* else is at best optional.
posted by evilangela at 11:46 AM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Chili is a local specialty with a specific history. Please find another name for your spiced vegetable stew."

ahem ((bullshit))

Prescriptivist food definitions can suck it.
I'm not a Texan but I have the misfortune of living here.
There was something on the Texas Monthly site recently about beans in chili.
And people actually care about it.

The Texas family I married into . . . puts beans in chili.

Me . . . I put beans in chili. What I don't put beans in is chile.
But whatever you cook, just enjoy it.
posted by Seamus at 11:47 AM on January 30, 2015 [26 favorites]


I live in San Antonio and I usually put beans in my chili. Sometimes I make a green chili with navy beans, green peppers, and chicken!

We are having a chili cook-off at work next week. I'll report back on how many dishes have beans in them.
Nobody cares what you put on top of chili. Cilantro, cheese, sour cream—have a party.
OK, can I put beans on top of my chili, then?
posted by muddgirl at 11:47 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Damn it, too slow for my dumb joke.
posted by muddgirl at 11:48 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Food purists like this are completely obnoxious. I'm sure there were a bunch of assholes in 16th century Italy who were up in arms at the idea of using weird little New World nightshade fruits in Italian cuisine too, and thank goodness their horseshit provincialism didn't win the day.
posted by saladin at 11:49 AM on January 30, 2015 [80 favorites]


If you keep calling round bread with a whole in it a bagel, I can call my stewed beans chili.
posted by gwint at 11:51 AM on January 30, 2015 [15 favorites]




I like beans but beans don't like me.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:51 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here in Colorado/New Mexico (formerly Mexico) we eat something called chile. Usually green, sometimes red. No beans. Mostly wonderfully roasted chiles. Sometimes damn hot. Pork is part of the standard non-vegetarian variety.

That other stuff - the chili that I ate growing up in the Midwest, with beans and hamburger - I could take it or leave it. I only eat it if there is a small pot-luck and I am filling my plate with whatever.
posted by kozad at 11:53 AM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


(the espresso chili is also the perfect all night gaming session food. Easy to make, nutritious, filling, not messy to eat, and heavily, heavily caffeinated.)
posted by Drinky Die at 11:53 AM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


he is suggesting that the names of foods can mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean

Sometimes thoughts like this will set me off all the way to deep nihilism.
posted by dogwalker at 11:54 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Chili con carne," motherfucker. Do you speak it?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:55 AM on January 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Thanks for that, Seamus. If I'd seen that I'd have put it in the FPP, and probably not made the 'get a rope' reference in the same way.
posted by fedward at 11:55 AM on January 30, 2015


Everybody who's ever tried my recipe for three-bean turkey chili has loved it. Texans can keep defending their silly meat soup, but I know the truth. More beans = better chili.
posted by Scienxe at 11:56 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Holy cow. I am a native Texan and am so utterly tired of this inane and neverending debate. Food history is sort of interesting but not to the point where it becomes fodder for these sorts of ridiculous pedantic lectures.

For a more obscure but related argument, see also: kolaches vs klobasnek
posted by pziemba at 11:57 AM on January 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


People always give Mark Bittman a hard time for his failures at authenticity, but I don't think that's what he's trying to do. Bittman's a great "here's how to make something 12 interesting ways" kind of cook, not a "this is exactly what you'll taste in the heart of San Antonio" type. Besides that, I like to collect 18th century recipes and cookbooks from the West (from Texas, California, etc), and they all have beans in their chili recipes.

It's kind of telling that the author says there's a name for something that has beans in it, and it's goulash.
I grew up on goulash: a guisado cooked with paprika and pintos, served over al dente macaroni.
That's funny, because I grew up with goulash and it's a Hungarian beef soup with paprika cream, potatoes, and caraway. Macaroni and beans sound like a gross addition to me. It's almost as if... the names of foods can mean whatever you want them to mean.
posted by teponaztli at 11:58 AM on January 30, 2015 [62 favorites]


I won't take linguisto-culinary lessons from a people who don't even know what animal barbecue is made from.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:58 AM on January 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


Kozad, having lived in NM, green and red chiles are common foodstuffs in our house (especially with antelope!) but there is still a place for "chili".
Chili is a weeknight, quick dinner that fills a specific comfort food niche.
While it is possible to make crappy chili, it can also be damn tasty and well crafted.
posted by Seamus at 11:59 AM on January 30, 2015


IMO, chili without beans is what goes on a chili dog; it's a condiment, or at best a sauce. The thought of eating it straight out of a bowl all by itself repulses me. Might as well guzzle a jar of Ragú while you're at it.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:00 PM on January 30, 2015 [35 favorites]


Sys Rq: you have crystalized my thoughts about this entirely. Thank you.
posted by hippybear at 12:01 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm sure there were a bunch of assholes in 16th century Italy who were up in arms at the idea of using weird little New World nightshade fruits in Italian cuisine too

If there were, they were probably shouted down by all the people who heard that those nightshade fruits were aphrodisiacs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:01 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


And coriander? I’ve never seen coriander seeds put in chili, ever.”

And of course the basic chili recipe I usually use features coriander. I am basically a complete chili purist heretic it seems.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:01 PM on January 30, 2015


Food bullies, the lot of 'em. Maybe if they added some beans they wouldn't be so damn constipated.
posted by furtive at 12:02 PM on January 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


My favorite chili is four-way Cincinnati chili mac. I've never been to Cincinnati but that's okay.
posted by silby at 12:03 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can barely believe that Slate would publish an opinion piece taking a controversial stance and having a tenuous grasp on facts!
posted by aught at 12:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


Don't feed the trolls, gang. Slaters gonna Slate.

Besides, everyone knows that the one true chili contains cinnamon.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Get a rope" is a charming Texas colloquialism, huh.
posted by grobstein at 12:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


Coriander goes well with ground turkey, if you are making your "chili"-esque concoction from that.
posted by dweingart at 12:07 PM on January 30, 2015


I love it when someone insists that this is some sort of absolute truth... on a site that lives and dies by its reflexive contrariness. Bonus points when they cite Bittman, who has never been a purist food snob and in fact is pretty much the antidote to same.

Look, I'll tell you what chili is: like a lot of other foods, it's a way of taking otherwise marginally palatable or semi-inedible ingredients and rendering them so via both slow-cooking and infusion with the hottest spices that you have and/or can stand. It's what you do with the cow that was old when it keeled over and pretty tough and was butchered by that kid who seems like he's scared of knives and doesn't really know how to handle one and really doesn't know his way around a beef corpse, and what was left was so unappetizing that it sat around for a couple of days and started to get a bit gamy. But when you're a farmer trying to scratch out a living on hell's half-acre, you don't throw away food until you've taken a decent crack at making it something that you can choke down, so you throw it into a pot and boil it in homemade hot sauce until the meat sort of falls apart. It's desperation food, not grist for random slatepitchers to get nostalgic and defensive over.

You want to put beans in it, great. You want to put tofu in it, also great. You want to pour it over any sort of pasta, knock yourself out. After all, we're not talking about Chicago deep dish pizza, before which all lesser pizzas must make obeisance. It's just chili.

(I eat chili about every other week, and make mine with black soy beans. That's right, assholes!)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:08 PM on January 30, 2015 [29 favorites]


Stubborn, contrarian prescriptivism is par for the course from Slate and I thought the goulash bit was an obvious joke in that context. It made me giggle at least. Goulash (AKA American Chop Suey) was recently discussed on the Blue and twice on the Green, FWIW.
posted by fedward at 12:08 PM on January 30, 2015


"Cincinnati Chili" is about the only form of chili which should not be able to call itself chili. Because it's not, and never has been even close to actual chili.
posted by evilangela at 12:10 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Cincinnati Chili" is about the only form of chili which should not be able to call itself chili. Because it's not, and never has been even close to actual chili.

That depends on how you define "chili," which is the whole point of this conversation about prescriptivism.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:13 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Get a rope" is a charming Texas colloquialism, huh.
I have only ever heard it in reference to the linked commercial, which got a lot of play in its day.
posted by fedward at 12:15 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty much OK with anything that pisses Texas off.

Except that Midwestern thing where folks put "chili" on spaghetti. That's just fucked up.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:15 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I really, really want to try Cincinnati chili.
Which, as far as I can tell, contains chile powder.
That sounds like chili to me.
posted by Seamus at 12:15 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, I imagine that my town's Chili Cook Off scheduled for a week from tomorrow would annoy the hell out of any given assemblage of Texans and Slate writers.
posted by aught at 12:16 PM on January 30, 2015


Turns out that chili purists are as tedious as every other type of purist.

We get it: the only True Chili is chili con carne. Beans are blasphemy. Everyone else is doing it wrong.

Whatever. Words and food traditions are both subject to drift, interbreeding, borrowing, and mutation—much to culture's benefit. There is nothing sacred about the word "chili", nor the dish that it denotes.

And I've always wanted to try Bittman's espresso black bean chili.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:16 PM on January 30, 2015


So torn on this one. As a Louisiana native who has had plenty of watery stews that people insist on calling gumbo (a very specific thing with a broad range of acceptable variations, but which must start with a roux), I get the "words mean something" argument, and I get that food history is especially important to those who live where a food comes from.
But, having grown up with Mississippi-style hot tamales as well, I understand how foods travel and take on new histories.
Respect history, enjoy variety, keep a sense of humor . . . and eat good food!
posted by pt68 at 12:17 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's kind of telling that the author says there's a name for something that has beans in it, and it's goulash.

HAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAAHHAAHA oh it is to lol

"I'm a culinary prescriptivist!"
"Um, so about that goulash thing..."
"Prescriptivist means what I want it to mean!"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:17 PM on January 30, 2015 [23 favorites]


I really, really want to try Cincinnati chili.
Which, as far as I can tell, contains chile powder.
That sounds like chili to me.
posted by Seamus at 3:15 PM on January 30 [+] [!]


Okay, it's getting late in the day on Friday, but I couldn't help but read this as a sort of haiku.
posted by aught at 12:17 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh, and the article mentions goulash, which is fantastically ironic for an article that's so up in arms about the names of dishes.

On preview, what feckless said.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:18 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


food fite
posted by poffin boffin at 12:18 PM on January 30, 2015


I won't take linguisto-culinary lessons from a people who don't even know what animal barbecue is made from.

Goat? Sheep? Pig? Those are all considered "traditional", depending on who you talk to.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:18 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, my family made chili and served it on rice.
When I moved to Texas it became clear that this was a heretical way to serve chili.
Until I met someone from east Texas where everything is served with rice, including chili.
But that fellow still insists that barbecue is made with beef. Whatever.
posted by Seamus at 12:18 PM on January 30, 2015


muddgirl: I live in San Antonio

One of my BFFs owns the Institute of Chili food truck in San Antonio, and Food & Wine named them one of the best food trucks of last year. You should check them out, Ana is an amazing cook!
posted by Room 641-A at 12:20 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I made chili last week, and as my husband and I stood in the beans aisle, juggling stacks of tortillas and slippery little bags of dried peppers, I mentioned to him that I heard that TRUE chili doesn't have beans.

Then we laughed and laughed and laughed and got like twelve cans of kidney beans. and reader, it was delicious.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:20 PM on January 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


The best chili I ever ate was prepared by a lady living on a reservation in New Mexico. It contained four ingredients: beef, red chile peppers, salt and water. That's authenticity for you.

But speaking of words meaning things, I've lately heard about a trend of folks referring to borscht as "beet gazpacho." What does this say about their opinions of eastern European culture and cuisine?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:21 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've lately heard about a trend of folks referring to borscht as "beet gazpacho."

they must be destroyed.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:22 PM on January 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


But speaking of words meaning things, I've lately heard about a trend of folks referring to borscht as "beet gazpacho." What does this say about their opinions of eastern European culture and cuisine?

Doubly weird because borscht is best served piping hot (which allows the sour cream to properly blend with the other ingredients).
posted by leotrotsky at 12:24 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


and heavily, heavily caffeinated.)

Caffeinated chili, otherwise know "blow-back".
posted by doctor_negative at 12:25 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: I won't take linguisto-culinary lessons from a people who don't even know what animal barbecue is made from.

A... all of them?
posted by mountmccabe at 12:26 PM on January 30, 2015 [24 favorites]


that he is doing something worse than disrespecting the dish

You cannot disrespect an inanimate object.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:26 PM on January 30, 2015


Except that Midwestern thing where folks put "chili" on spaghetti. That's just fucked up.

Best use of Texas Meat Sauce I can think of.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:27 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I won't take linguisto-culinary lessons from a people who don't even know what animal barbecue is made from.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:58 PM on January 30


Last Friday night I was talking to a guy at a bar. We had the following exchange:

Me: Where you from?
Guy: South Carolina
Me: Really! I'm from North Carolina. Thinking: Don't talk about barbecue. Be polite. Don't talk about barbecue
Guy: How do you like your barbecue?
Me: Eastern North Carolina style, vinegar sauce.
Guy: I prefer mustard sauce.
Me: I figured. That style's not bad...I guess Leave it be. Don't say anything else. LET IT GO
Guy: As long as it's pig!

Then we toasted each other, on account of how we're smarter than people who barbecue other, inferior animals.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:28 PM on January 30, 2015 [51 favorites]


There's something about the hostile, fighty, tribal, small-minded prescriptivism in the article that's just repulsive.
posted by kprincehouse at 12:28 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Spaghetti always seemed weird to me because the sauce didn't seem to fit the pasta (just the mechanics of eating), but chili mac is one of those 1970s comfort foods (in the US South, IME) you couldn't escape and probably didn't want to/
posted by Seamus at 12:29 PM on January 30, 2015


If I served you five dirty pennies in a bowl of old yogurt, would that be chili?

This is actually a soup, sorry.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:30 PM on January 30, 2015 [45 favorites]


If we want to get technical, cattle aren't native to North America.

Ms. Capps wouldn't be using invasive foreign species in her dish, would she? Surely her chili must be bison-only.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:30 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that everyone has some line at which a dish is no longer chili

When it's gone.
posted by dng at 12:30 PM on January 30, 2015 [17 favorites]


23skidoo, if there is no chile in it, I would have a hard time calling it chili or chile.
posted by Seamus at 12:31 PM on January 30, 2015


I don't really understand what the whole Texan food definitions thing is about. Not everything has to be in exactly the style that you make it.

If somebody in Vermont wants to throw some corn and zucchini in a pot and drown it in tomato sauce and call it chili, so fucking be it. You don't have to have any if you don't want. If somebody wants to grill some chicken and drown it in sugarsauce and call it barbecue, ditto. Not my thing, but yeah sure why the fuck not.
posted by Sara C. at 12:31 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Skyline Chili is laudable because it's a real job creator -- there's the dog it comes out of, there's the person who takes care of the dog, and there's the cook who walks behind the dog's backside with a pot in which to catch it.
posted by delfin at 12:31 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


A good chili mac is a glorious thing. It's not actually chili, but it is super delicious and I may have to make some for tonight's dinner now that you mention it.
posted by hippybear at 12:31 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, chili without beans is weird and inferior to chili-with-beans in every way, and provincial prescriptivist blowhards like this one need to find a better hill on which to die.

On the other hand, if you replace the words "chili with beans" with "vodka martini," then you will have described EXACTLY THE HILL I WANT TO DIE ON, so maybe she's tapping into something primal here.
posted by Mayor West at 12:32 PM on January 30, 2015 [23 favorites]


Eastern North Carolina style, vinegar sauce.

oh my god the Looks I got when I was in North Carolina and at someone's place for a big rollicking buffet dinner and I looked around and ask where the barbecue sauce was.

this dreadful hush settled over the room and I was taken quietly aside where a few Things were Explained.

I mean, isn't there SOMETHING that defines chili for everyone? Why is it so hard to accept that some people's hard line for chili is "no beans", when I'm pretty sure that everyone has some line at which a dish is no longer chili?

I've been finding it easier lately to think of food definitions as Venn diagrams with really, really blurry edges. YMMV.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:32 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't really understand what the whole Texan food definitions thing is about.

Insecurity about living in an inhospitable wasteland?

i kid!
posted by leotrotsky at 12:32 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I mean, isn't there SOMETHING that defines chili for everyone?

Yes: Chili.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:32 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think if we can play things just right, we can get the Texans angry about how other people do chili and New Yorkers angry about how other people do pizza to bond over their food prescriptivism and become the odd couple teamup that saves the nation with their heartwarming story of new-found understanding.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:32 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


You cannot disrespect an inanimate object.

i pissed on the cornerstone of my high school - you CAN disrespect an inanimate object
posted by pyramid termite at 12:34 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not everything has to be in exactly the style that you make it.

you don't even believe in yogurt!
posted by poffin boffin at 12:34 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


teponaztli: "the names of foods can mean whatever you want them to mean."

You're gonna love my garbage dick plate, then.
posted by boo_radley at 12:35 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


On the other hand, if you replace the words "chili with beans" with "vodka martini," then you will have described EXACTLY THE HILL I WANT TO DIE ON, so maybe she's tapping into something primal here.

I've gotten to where I can only say the thing about martinis requiring gin tongue in cheek anymore. There are too many wrongheaded people out there who think a martini contains vodka and they're mean about it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:35 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


"deep dish bean chili pizza", five words with the power of a molotov cocktail or swarm of bees when used in the right circumstances
posted by jason_steakums at 12:35 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


If I served you five dirty pennies in a bowl of old yogurt, would that be chili?

This is how I usually make chili, and it's great! Far better than that beef-and-tomato crap restaurants try to pass off as "chili". The trick is to use pennies of different years, and garnish with a drizzle of soy sauce. Yum!
posted by Greg Nog at 12:36 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


It didn't say I couldn't call it chili, I just said it would be hard!
But at a certain point, you're just talking about ingredients. Can I make a chicken vindaloo with mutton and still call it chicken vindaloo? I think that the name for chili comes from a bastardization of the word chile, the main defining ingredient.
posted by Seamus at 12:36 PM on January 30, 2015


There are very few things I believe completely and wholeheartedly anymore. But one of them is that chili is a no-bean zone.
posted by sallybrown at 12:36 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Isn't the martini actually just the name of the glass? Because appletinis are totally the same thing right
posted by poffin boffin at 12:36 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


And I could care less whether your chile/chili contains chili powder, chile powder or fresh chiles.
posted by Seamus at 12:37 PM on January 30, 2015


Why isn't that food prescriptivism, but saying "chili can't have beans in it" IS food prescriptivism?

At its base, chili is a food which is a sort of sauced stew thing that is seasoned with chile. Some might say it must contain onion, some might say it must contain beans, some might say it must contain tofu... But it's that single spice that defines chili. Much like how you cannot make a molé without cocoa, you cannot make chili without chile.
posted by hippybear at 12:37 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]




boo_radley You're gonna love my garbage dick plate, then.

I have been to Rochester, thank you.
posted by teponaztli at 12:38 PM on January 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


Maybe this happens in other states, but I've noticed this weird phenomenon when often left-leaning, upper-middle-class young Texans finally get the hell out of this state, and suddenly discover a deep-seated nostalgia and protectionism that they probably didn't feel while they still lived here.

I mean, who cares if Mark Bittman doesn't know how to make authentic Texas-style chili? He doesn't live in Texas! As they say, "Chili powder makes you crazy."

Here's an honest question for everyone who wants to hate on food prescriptivism with regards to chili not having beans in it: Is there any dish that someone would call chili and you would say "That's not chili!"

I feel like this is one of those stoner questions like, "Aren't pizzas just open-faced sandwiches? If you ask for a sandwich and I give you a slice of pizza, would you have a right to be mad at me?"
posted by muddgirl at 12:38 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Isn't the martini actually just the name of the glass? Because appletinis are totally the same thing right

pistols at dawn
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:39 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


To the people using the pronoun "she": Kriston Capps is male. Here's his CityLab author page.
posted by fedward at 12:39 PM on January 30, 2015


Overthinking a bowl that better not have beans in it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:39 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Much like how you cannot make a molé without cocoa, you cannot make chili without chile.

Except not all moles contain chocolate . . .
posted by Seamus at 12:39 PM on January 30, 2015


[cackling intensifies]
posted by poffin boffin at 12:40 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


no, a real stoner question is, "how do you know the refrigerator light shuts off when the door's closed?"
posted by pyramid termite at 12:40 PM on January 30, 2015


How does one mess with Texas? Times like these I feel I should be trying.
posted by Hoopo at 12:40 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Though seriously, I am born and bred in Texas, and I put beans in my chili because I am poor and I use them to stretch the meat a little. Also helps to serve it as Frito pie.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:40 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]




teponaztli: "I have been to Rochester, thank you."

Oh man. I'm going to print this out, highlight it carefully and then frame it.
posted by boo_radley at 12:41 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


The 'Top Comment' in the Slate article is-
"Ok here is a proposition for the lone star state: you get to decide what we put in chili and we get to decide what we put in textbooks."
posted by Gratishades at 12:41 PM on January 30, 2015 [56 favorites]


Isn't the martini actually just the name of the glass?

The wikipedia page suggests that the martini is the name of the drink that involves gin, and that other drinks that aren't that but that use "martini" or the suffix "-tini" are named after the glass.
posted by hippybear at 12:42 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


'vodka martini' is acceptable because they are implicitly acknowledging the presence of gin as an essential ingredient in the cocktail, in that they are asking for a variant of the actual drink (which is just a 'martini').

Of course, you order a martini in France, and you'll get a glass of vermouth as an aperitif, so there's that.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:42 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


question - if i make a chili martini, can i put beans in it?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:43 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's a joke in my household about an actual Food Historian decrying the usage of peppers in Indian food as "non-traditional" because the practice only started after the discovery of the Americas. There's a real, wonderful history to this stuff but it would be delightful if it was brought up in the spirit of sharing culture and not just being "right".

Just cuz I grew up with Memphis style BBQ doesn't mean every other way is wrong. The reasons why there are differences are so much more interesting than arguing over the "correct" way. Unless we're actually eating. Then fuck all the talking.
posted by cheap paper at 12:43 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


if i make a chili martini, can i put beans in it?

are you in texas or south carolina?
posted by poffin boffin at 12:44 PM on January 30, 2015


Vermouth on the rocks is a perfectly acceptable drink. But it's not a martini.
posted by hippybear at 12:44 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


To the people using the pronoun "she": Kriston Capps is male.

So, do I go for the gender prescriptivism joke, or the one pointing out he sounds like the 5th Stark brother?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:44 PM on January 30, 2015


Also what would be the ingredients of a hamtini

would it just be gravy with a hock wedged onto the side of the glass
posted by poffin boffin at 12:44 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Vermouth on the rocks is a perfectly acceptable drink. But it's not a martini.

The manufacturer would likely disagree.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:46 PM on January 30, 2015


I guess what I'm saying is there's this big category one could reasonably call 'stews'--slow cooked things in liquid. And there's lots of fuzzy subcategories there like 'chili' and 'vindaloo' and 'tikka masala' and 'chowder,' and 'stews' itself is a fuzzy subcategory of 'mainly liquid foods' maybe.

Also what would be the ingredients of a hamtini

jamon iberico broth served in a champagne glass with encapsulated melon juice. Adria did it in 2005 or something.


oh hohoho and what does a champagne glass look like *rubs hands together in glee*
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:47 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Aren't pizzas just open-faced sandwiches? If you ask for a sandwich and I give you a slice of pizza, would you have a right to be mad at me?"

Hey, sister. If you gave me a slice of pizza, let me tell you what I would do. I would smile. I would appreciate the fact that you're doing your best to make sure I'm well-fed, and I would thank you for your gracious gift.

You know, there's a fable about Heaven and Hell, goes a little something like this: in Heaven, all sandwiches are pizza, and in Hell, the same is true.

But in Hell, they say that they won't eat pizza, and in Heaven, they celebrate the food they have, and they turn up the Enya a little louder, and they all give each other hugs. Because, brothers, sisters, it's all one love. And that one love in a pizza... is the same love that we can feel in our hearts. Blessed be, sister of the cosmos.

-xBZ69x
posted by xBongzilla69x at 12:48 PM on January 30, 2015 [34 favorites]


Why is it so hard to accept that some people's hard line for chili is "no beans", when I'm pretty sure that everyone has some line at which a dish is no longer chili?

I fully accept that that is their line.

But it's a wrong and bad line that marks them as Red Lectroids from the 10th Dimension.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:49 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not really, I was being serious.

I know you were, but so was I. What is a "sandwich?" Why are some things called sandwiches and other things called hamburgers? Why is this a kolache but this is also a kolache?

To me, chili is the seasoning base made from chiles. Everything else is a pleasant ingredient. Personally, I prefer that the texture end up closer to a dip or a salsa than to a stew or a soup, but others disagree. If you want to start making a dish with 4 pennies in it, and call it chili, and you can get other people to recognize your dish by that term, more power to you.
posted by muddgirl at 12:49 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


snnrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrkkkk *pass*
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:49 PM on January 30, 2015


oh hohoho and what does a champagne glass look like *rubs hands together in glee*

trick question there's no middle step between "all of the champagne in the bottle" and "all of the champagne in my belly" for a glass to even enter into
posted by jason_steakums at 12:50 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


And here I thought beans were the very basis of chili, with the meat being optional. After all, why would it be called "chili con carne" if that weren't a variant? It literally means "chili with meat."

It's like if there were a dish called "pizza con carne," and some Texans were insisting that Real Pizza ALWAYS had meat on it, and tomatoes don't belong on a Real Pizza. I'm not saying they're not entitled to their opinions, but they sound pretty foolish.
posted by explosion at 12:51 PM on January 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


you are supposed to drink it out of ava gardner's shoe
posted by poffin boffin at 12:52 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know, there's a fable about Heaven and Hell, goes a little something like this: in Heaven, all sandwiches are pizza, and in Hell, the same is true.

the same is true in purgatory - only it's chuck e cheese pizza
posted by pyramid termite at 12:52 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's funny, because I grew up with goulash and it's a Hungarian beef soup with paprika cream, potatoes, and caraway. Macaroni and beans sound like a gross addition to me. It's almost as if... the names of foods can mean whatever you want them to mean.

I know we're all mocking prescriptivists here but you're missing a word, you're talking about goulash leves - goulash soup.
posted by pan at 12:53 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been finding it easier lately to think of food definitions as Venn diagrams with really, really blurry edges. YMMV.

This is it. There's some leeway in what "chili" is and it will blend into the leeway of other things that are close to chili but not chili like, say, meaty spaghetti sauce. There's going to be a continuum there, not a bright line.

When is a group of grains a pile? It's not clear because there's more vagueness in the definition than you would be aware of without the contrast of asking the question...but that doesn't imply there must be a bright line separating the two just because you can ask the question.
posted by delicious-luncheon at 12:54 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


"kolache" is plural. geez. There is no such thing as "a kolache"

(What's also fun in Texas is talking about kolache when you mean something other than Texas-Czech pastries! This is what I grew up with as kolache.)
posted by Seamus at 12:54 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also what would be the ingredients of a hamtini

A single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man's hat.
posted by Mayor West at 12:54 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


become the odd couple teamup that saves the nation with their heartwarming story of new-found understanding

s/heartwarming story of new-found understanding/drunken mutual hatefuck/
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:55 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


oh hohoho and what does a champagne glass look like *rubs hands together in glee*

In my house it looks like this.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:56 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


food definitions as Venn diagrams with really, really blurry edges

Chili is a lot like pornography, I can't define it exactly but know it when I see . . . see it.
posted by Seamus at 12:57 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


"kolache" is plural. geez. There is no such thing as "a kolache"

Where I'm from the plural is kolaches. Don't ask how we pronounce Blanco or Huebner.
posted by muddgirl at 12:58 PM on January 30, 2015


DC bar owner and Imbibe's bartender of the year Derek Brown says you should drink champagne out of a wine glass (and some experts back him up), but he drinks it out of a tumbler.
posted by fedward at 12:58 PM on January 30, 2015


If I served you five dirty pennies in a bowl of old yogurt, would that be chili?

no, that would be a republican breakfast
posted by pyramid termite at 1:00 PM on January 30, 2015


Don't ask how we pronounce Blanco or Huebner.
They rhyme with Durn-it and Man-shack, right?
posted by Seamus at 1:00 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'll be over here waving the Chili Verde Is Really Freaking Good Too And By The Way No Beans In That Either banner.
posted by delfin at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I mean, isn't there SOMETHING that defines chili for everyone? Why is it so hard to accept that some people's hard line for chili is "no beans", when I'm pretty sure that everyone has some line at which a dish is no longer chili?

The error is to take your own (parochial) notion of what counts as a chili and argue that everyone else is wrong about it, even though people all over the world successfully use the word "chili" to refer to things with beans, etc.

If the bean-users are right about the usage of the word in their language communities (goes the argument), they can't somehow be wrong about the meaning of the word -- it's impossible, because there's no "true" meaning apart from usage in a language community (or some version of this idea).

I don't think the analysis of rhetoric like "that's not a real chili" necessarily has to stop here, though. There may be an implication that other chilis are false because they are inferior, for example.

(Do not tell me I'm overthinking a plate of no beans.)
posted by grobstein at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


oh hohoho and what does a champagne glass look like *rubs hands together in glee*

So one of my brothers just recently became a mixologist. (lol.) On Christmas Eve we were all over at my dad's house, drinking champagne. There were a lot of people over, and we ran out of flutes. So Mixology Bro goes over to the china cabinet and grabs some vintage barware that, it must be admitted, bears a resemblance to a champagne coupe. He pours himself a glass of champagne and goes on a pedantic rant about how, ACTUALLY, this is a champagne glass, and the other thing is an abomination, because Hemingway and Don Draper and.... then my dad came over and informed him that he was drinking champagne out of a vintage ice cream dish.
posted by Sara C. at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2015 [34 favorites]


drink champagne? don't you just let it drain out of the tub once you've finished bathing?
posted by poffin boffin at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2015 [23 favorites]


The historian in me got interested. I find the first reference to chili con carne with beans in it in 1909 in the Evansville Courier and Press. That's the way they made it at the Eureka Chili Parlor.

I know. I know. Indiana, what do they know.

So let's jump forward to January 12, 1917. The newspaper: The Houston Chronicle, page 10. The business: Henke and Pillot.

The product: Chili con carne -- with or without beans.

Texans have been serving chili con carne with beans in them for 98 years, at least.

In 1927, according to the Dallas Morning News, the Thrift Packing Company in Dallas was producing 30,000 cans of chili con carne per day. Their recipe included beans.

On February 24, 1944, the Dallas Morning News published a recipe for B-VC- chili con carne. Included in the recipe? 2 1/2 cups red cooked beans.

I could go on, but I have already done more research than the author did.

By the way, I have read an awful lot of H. Allen Smith, the author who started this controversy. He was primarily a humorist, and the chili contest was intended in the spirit of fun, a sort of mutual prankishness rather than dedicated foodie prescriptivism. Here's his recipe for chili:

Get three pounds of chuck, coarse ground. Brown it in an iron kettle. (If you don’t have an iron kettle you are not civilized. Go out and get one.) Chop two or three medium-sized onions and one bell pepper and add to the browned meat. Crush or mince one or two cloves of garlic and throw into the pot, then add about half a teaspoon of oregano and a quarter teaspoon of cumin seed. (You can get cumin seed in the supermarket nowadays.) Now add two small cans tomato paste; if you prefer canned tomatoes of fresh tomatoes, put them through a colander. Add about a quart of water. Salt liberally and grind in some black pepper and, for a starter, two or three tablespoons of chili powder. (Some of us use chile pods, but chile powder is just as good.) Simmer for an hour and a half or longer, then add your beans. Pinto beans are best, but if they not available, canned kidney beans will do – two 15-17 oz. cans will be adequate. Simmer another half hour. Throughout the cooking, do some testing from time to time and, as the Gourmet Cookbook puts it, “correct seasoning.” When you’ve got it right , let it set for several hours. Later you may heat it up as much as you want and put the remainder in the refrigerator. It will taste better the second day, still better the third, and absolutely superb the fourth. You can’t even begin to imagine the delights in store for you one week later.
posted by maxsparber at 1:04 PM on January 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


I prefer champagne out of flutes for a bunch of reasons but at the end of the day if you're serving me champagne I'm much happier with buckets.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:04 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is cereal a soup?
posted by Carillon at 1:04 PM on January 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


"I mean, isn't there SOMETHING that defines chili for everyone?"

I'd say that Texas chili is a stew/sauce with a (red) chili powder and beef base. (And which is often delicious in its various guises.)

Being a New Mexico native, I'm familiar with various sauces and stews that utilize red or green chiles and beef or pork -- but not red chili powder in the way distinctive to Texas chili. In fact, there is a New Mexican red chile sauce that can be made from powdered red chile, but is usually made from a pureed roasted red chile; but it's a thin sauce that's then used as a base or ingredient for other things and is not really like Texas chili at all.

I think that if you're making a stew-like dish from a powdered red chili and beef base, that is often eaten alone but is sometimes used as an ingredient, you're making Texas-style chili.

It's always seemed really weird to me to care whether by definition it includes beans or not; when I lived in Texas I just chalked that up as yet another white cultural affectation related to the Texan appropriation of hispanic food and culture. In Texas you get the irony of white folk arguing about the authenticity of chili while they shop at an H.E.B. that is two blocks away from the Fiesta supermarket where all the hispanic folk shop at. That's in liberal Austin. Texas's cultural relationship to hispanic culture is pretty explicitly colonialist and often implicitly hostile, so I tend to gag a bit whenever anglo Texans go on about Tex-Mex and "authenticity" and such.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:05 PM on January 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


Oh, and you drink champagne out of the mouth of a goddess. Failing that, any glass will do.
posted by maxsparber at 1:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I put beans AND pasta in my chili. Sometimes even pineapple! I AM MAD WITH POWER.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


My favorite chili I make generally has lima beans, corn, and pumpkin. And ground turkey. But tonight my leftovers are a turkey with white bean chili made with cocoa, cinnamon, and cloves. I've also made that one with ground lamb adding cardamom and rosemary. [Both of those have chilies, tomato, onion, etc].

I've tried to make a more Texas-style short rib chili but not gotten it to come out as anything special so I stick to what turns out.

I also put tomatoes in my jambalaya. And when I make carnitas I cook it in lard the entire time but use pineapples instead of oranges because I'm allergic to citrus. I'm planning to make posole but I plan to use pork instead of the traditional human. I served my phở in Pyrex bread pans because I don't have large enough bowls. I have Pyrex bread pans. Everyone asks if my beet soup is borscht and I sometimes say yes even though the spices are very different. I put smoked paprika in most things because my wife likes it. Forgive me food prescriptivists for I am hungry.
posted by mountmccabe at 1:07 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


I am reading that in a accidentally-kitten-transformed-Yzma voice and it is perfect.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:07 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is cereal a soup?

I can't think of any other broad foot category it could really belong to.

I'm planning to make posole but I plan to use pork instead of the traditional human

!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:08 PM on January 30, 2015


Prescriptivists crack me up, though granted I've been served some vegan atrocities that befouled the term "chili." But as long as it tastes good I'm ok with people mixing and matching terms and playing fast and loose with recipes.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:08 PM on January 30, 2015


I see that someone has already made the wittgensteinian rejoinder.
posted by batfish at 1:09 PM on January 30, 2015


I prefer champagne out of flutes

doesn't it leak all over the place?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:10 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


five dirty pennies in a bowl of old yogurt

That's it, I simply must set up a sock puppet account now.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:10 PM on January 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


Ugh, this article. Like, dude, if you love Texas-style chili, it is totally cool for you to strip down to your skivvies and roll around in a kiddie pool full of Texas-style chili with your mouth gawped open like a catfish. Enjoy your greasy, grainy-ass chili pool in good health and with the blessings of all humankind. If, however, you're so frangible you need to browbeat everyone else on the planet for Doin It Rong, you can have an entire stadium full of seats.

oh hohoho and what does a champagne glass look like

I like the little coupes that make me feel like I just parked my ominously-yellow car outside a Long Island mansion and am about to ruin my life
posted by amery at 1:10 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've had ice cream soup, which was basically just a float in a bowl. I've never thought about adding cereal to it, but I'm feeling a little daffy, so why not?
posted by maxsparber at 1:10 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, can I just here and now state that "enchiladas" are stacked flat tortillas coated with a red chile sauce with onion and mounds of cheese in between them, and maybe meat, served with a fried egg on top and surrounded by shredded lettuce? #NewMexicoFTW
posted by hippybear at 1:10 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Here's an honest question for everyone who wants to hate on food prescriptivism with regards to chili not having beans in it: Is there any dish that someone would call chili and you would say "That's not chili!" Like if I said "Come over for chili!" and you showed up and I served you chana masala, could that be chili? If I served you bananas foster, would that be chili? If I served you five dirty pennies in a bowl of old yogurt, would that be chili?

In my head, chilli is inherently Mexican or derived/inspired by Mexican foods. That means tomatoes and hot peppers are the essentials; cocoa is also a nice addition. The rest of the spices are what I think of as Mexican/TexMex/SouthWestern flavours: paprika with cumin, cilantro.

Taking out the cocoa and paprika (or reducing the paprika) and adding tuneric, cardamom and garam masala, the same recipe becomes clearly a curry (aka inspired/reminiscent of South Asian cooking).

In both cases, the protein and other ingredients are less important for defining/characterising the dish than the spices.

And now I need to go make a whole bunch of vegetarian chilli with 4-5 kinds of bean, celery for crunch, and probably some secret marmite for umami flavour.
posted by jb at 1:11 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think the difference between being a prescriptivist and just being really opinionated about food is that prescriptivists insist that there is only one way to do things whereas opinionated jack-asses, like me, just have very strong preferences and are fine with letting people do things there own way as long as they don't invite us to dinner.

(The truth is, I am sure I am a prescriptivist about some things and now I am spending too much time trying to figure out what those things are.)
posted by Seamus at 1:11 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


(seriously: I'm attending a vegetarian potluck, and said a week ago I was bringing chilli).
posted by jb at 1:12 PM on January 30, 2015


I really feel the need to just casually mention the fact that a stack of fucking crepes is not a goddamn cake.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:12 PM on January 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


YOU WILL PRY MY CINCINNATI CHILI FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS

About 30 minutes from now. (Urp).
posted by MOWOG at 1:12 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Prescriptivists crack me up, though granted I've been served some vegan atrocities that befouled the term "chili."

It is so easy to make chilli vegan - basic vegetarian chilli is already vegan. You just don't add meat.
posted by jb at 1:13 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really feel the need to just casually mention the fact that a stack of fucking crepes is not a goddamn cake.

Sounds like a crepe orgy to me.
posted by maxsparber at 1:14 PM on January 30, 2015


it is an ABOMINATION
posted by poffin boffin at 1:15 PM on January 30, 2015


Hey, I don't knock your kinks.
posted by maxsparber at 1:16 PM on January 30, 2015


the correct term is Mille crêpes
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:17 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have had great vegan chile that was heavy on the vegetables and potatoes with a massive dose of green chile and I have had miserable vegan chili that was an attempt to create the flavors of a meat chili with tvp but failed by spicing it wrong and cooking large soft chunks of zucchini in the stew.
It can be done and it can be done well. But damn, when it ain't . . .
posted by Seamus at 1:17 PM on January 30, 2015


Prescriptivism might be wrong, but it sure engenders lots of fun arguments.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 1:18 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I also put tomatoes in my jambalaya.

Okay, hold up.

Aren't you supposed to do that? I've been perfecting my jambalaya recipe for 18 years now, and I got the original recipe out of a cookbook published by a Cajun cooking school, and it called for tomatoes in jambalaya.

So was the notion of tomatoes in jambalaya something that was ever in question? To my ears that sounds kind of like saying "I put cheese in my grilled cheese".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:19 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


feckless fecal fear mongering: !

Ethical sourcing this, federal investigations that
posted by mountmccabe at 1:20 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


23skidoo, I have eaten meaty stews at potlucks that were tasty but when I was done I did not know if I had eaten something the cook called 'chile'. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't.

I think that maybe we all are presciptivists on some level, but is it possible that some levels of prescriptivism are just more idiotic than others?
posted by Seamus at 1:20 PM on January 30, 2015


Hello Joe
Tomatoes go
In Jumbalayo
Tonight we'll have
Big fun
On the Bayo.
posted by maxsparber at 1:20 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I make a mean chili. Some times I make it with beans, sometimes without beans. But it's always hearty and hot. While I try to be humble, I have to admit that I take a little pride in my chili.

Then one day I'm at this party. I meet this girl who really likes my habanero mead and she invites me to dinner. Things go great and I offer to bring a pot of my signature chili for dinner later that week and she accepts. Nice!

There's only one problem... she's vegetarian. My chili is not. I'm stewing over this problem at work when a coworker's daughter walks in. She had just graduated from culinary school and is a cooking master. To top things off she's also vegetarian. Prefect! So I corner her and explain my problem. I need to make a vegetarian version of my chili, it needs to rock, and I need to make it tomorrow. The conversation went something like this:

"So, how do I make a vegetarian chli?", I asked.

"Well, you don't put the meat in."

"Okay, run that by me again. I need to make chili and it needs to be vegetarian."

"Don't put the meat in."

"I'm not sure I follow you..."

After having it explained to me again (and again), I decided I needed to ditch the theory and move straight on to the practical, so I went shopping. I grabbed everything I needed (including beans) except the meat and stood there staring at the shopping cart. It looked so empty and vulnerable without meat. Somehow incomplete. I just wanted to comfort it, tell it everything was going to be okay, push it over to the meat section and give it two pounds of beef. I couldn't just not add the meat, that's what I start with. It's the very foundation of chili. It was like trying to build a house without a basement. What keeps the house from falling down into the hole you dug for the basement? Chili without meat, was like... like... soup.

Steeling myself, I pushed the cart back towards the veggie section of the store. There must be something. I didn't trust the veggie "ground beef" to hold up to the awesome power that is my chili (and, you know, hours in my slow cooker). Then I saw it. The sound of fake thunder announced the misting cycle in the produce section. Through the mist as the sound of artificial thunder rolled away, I saw a zucchini. Without a moment of hesitation, I grabbed four of the oblong things and returned home.

I should point out, that I don't actually like cucumbers and zucchini. I mean, zucchini is okay when made into bread, but in chili? It was a risk I was willing to take. Men do strange things for love, and if I had to cook with zucchini, then so be it!

I shredded the devil out of those green buggers and then fried them up in place of the meat. I prepared the rest of the recipe pretending that the whitish-green mess was beef, turned on the crock pot, and waited. Hours later, I tried a taste and it was... not bad. But I wasn't the judge, that would require a real vegetarian.

Long story short, it was a hit. She loved this vegetarian stew I called chili. Soon I was making my fried rice a la awesome without meat and then even a salad. I had never made a salad in my entire life before that point. I was flying blind and playing fast and loose with every spice and pepper I could grab (liquid smoke works surprisingly well on salads). Before long, I knew the actual names of literally dozens of different vegetables that I had only glanced at suspiciously before the veggie chili event. Next thing you know, we're married.

Word of warning: If you start messing around with what makes chili chili, you could end up married.
posted by flyingfox at 1:21 PM on January 30, 2015 [59 favorites]


The best chili is where you make it but burn the bottom and so have to serve 12 bowls yourself so no one scrapes up the burnt stuff and when asked you say oh this was actually liquid smoke i added too not burned at all i promise.
posted by Carillon at 1:21 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've lately heard about a trend of folks referring to borscht as "beet gazpacho."

This might be a good solution for the Ukrainian Food Facebook group I belong to, where all discussions and arguments about the proper spelling of borsch/ bortsch/ borstch/ borsh/ borshch have just been banned.
posted by Kabanos at 1:22 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


but is it possible that some levels of prescriptivism are just more idiotic than others

NO
posted by poffin boffin at 1:22 PM on January 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


My point was just that we're all prescriptivists about food about on some level.

But that's not what "prescriptivist" or "descriptivist" is generally understood to mean. Descriptivists, linguistically, agree that words have meaning. They just think that the meaning is derived culturally, not handed down from on high. It's the same thing with food descriptivism. In general, in the United States, chili is understood to be a class of recipes with certain characteristics - generally beans, sometimes not. Generally beef, but often not. And so on. The definition of what chili is, is agreed on by the people that eat it.

Food prescriptivists argue that there is a consecrated recipe for "chili" that contains only the ingredients they approve, just as a linguistic prescriptivist argues that the word "decimate" only means to reduce in number by 1/10, even though few people use it that way any more.
posted by muddgirl at 1:22 PM on January 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


get a rope

how come if it's made in san antonio, they make it with beans in it?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:22 PM on January 30, 2015


I mean really though they're all equally valid AND equally ridiculous and that is why these threads are the best possible threads.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:22 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, real chili can only be made by Chileans.
posted by Kabanos at 1:23 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 8, episode 5, "Lone Star":

Picard welcomes the delegation from Texas aboard the Enterprise, but a Borg virus swaps the replicator's definitions of meat and beans, threatening to derail delicate negotiations. Worf and Data learn lessons about too much and/or too little feelings.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:24 PM on January 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think you mean chilbeans.
posted by maxsparber at 1:24 PM on January 30, 2015


Jambalaya:

There are two schools of thought. I grew up in a Tomato Jambalaya house, hated jambalaya my entire life, and only upon encountering Non-Tomato Jambalaya did I realize I actually like jambalaya.

The only necessary components of jambalaya are rice, some kind of liquid to cook the rice in (I use stock, tomato-preferrers use something tomato oriented), the Cajun trinity vegetables, and meat.

I personally think it's fine to substitute the meat for some coarsely chopped portobello mushrooms, maybe some cubes of butternut squash, or really any vegetable that can stand on its own. But most Cajuns would look at it sideways, because, ewwwwwww why bother to eat if there's not going to be meat in it.
posted by Sara C. at 1:25 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: So was the notion of tomatoes in jambalaya something that was ever in question?

It's a Creole versus Cajun divide.
posted by mountmccabe at 1:25 PM on January 30, 2015


Am I the only one who remembers how Pace picante sauce commercials originally had the non-Pace picante sauce being made in New Jersey (NEW JERSEY!?!?!), but the New Jersey Chamber Of Commerce or some similar image-conscious group got butthurt about it and forced them to change it and they chose New York City?

Because that was an actual thing, but there isn't good documentation about it that I can cite. But that actually happened.
posted by hippybear at 1:25 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think you mean chilbeans.

aren't those like hemorrhoids
posted by poffin boffin at 1:26 PM on January 30, 2015


There's also the salsa commercial where he has a car alarm on his horse.
posted by Carillon at 1:26 PM on January 30, 2015


"Also, can I just here and now state that "enchiladas" are stacked flat tortillas coated with a red chile sauce with onion and mounds of cheese in between them, and maybe meat, served with a fried egg on top and surrounded by shredded lettuce? #NewMexicoFTW"

I share your preference, but the stacked-not-rolled thing is very much like this Texan "no beans" thing. You'll find examples of rolled enchiladas in traditional New Mexican cuisine and some of the snobbery about this from anglos is a Santa Fe version of what I was ridiculing Texans for in my previous comment. There's traditional northern New Mexican cooking and then there's "New Mexican" food as promulgated by popular Santa Fe/ABQ restaurants and while they overlap, there's a tendency toward defining "authenticity" in ways that aren't as authentic as it seems.

Not to say that New Mexican cuisine isn't genuinely its own, distinct and very old thing. But that there's some of the same things going on with it that there is with the "New Mexican" architecture of Santa Fe -- which is a wholly deliberate twentieth-century artifact.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:29 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I come from the Detroit area, so I think chili is pretty good, especially on a coney dog. There are different forms, and most taste good if you tell yourself "this is how this is supposed to taste."

I wonder if much of this bloviating about correctness comes from a strong regional identity around a custom. The Texas chili thing seems silly historically, but a culture has been built around it, so it self-sustains as a means of preservation. Detroit doesn't have much beyond coney dogs and square pizza, but I don't remember heated fights about that.

However, I remember my UAW employed neighbor calling our family's Toyota "Jap crap" as a child. That makes more sense to me in that the livelihood of a region was threatened and eventually torpedoed through stubborn insistence on the superiority of the Big Three automakers. So even though many of the parts are sub-sub contracted overseas, that regional pride remains; something like two-thirds of the cars in Detroit are American compared to 25% in the rest of the country.

In short, that's the battle of authenticity with which I'm familiar.
posted by Turkey Glue at 1:29 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Best chili I ever made contained no beans and no tomato - just cubes of beef and pork, onion, garlic, chile powder, and cumin. I worked without a recipe, didn't write down what I did, and sadly have never been able to replicate.

But I'll eat just about any kind of chili unless it's too heavy on the kidney beans. Man, are those suckers mealy.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:30 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I mostly remember those Pace ads for encouraging me, a young Southerner brought up to hate Yankees and all their products, to shout at a relative who bought something made in New York. I grew up and married a woman from Rhode Island, which half my family thinks is in New York because they can't keep it straight from Long Island, so she thinks that's pretty funny now.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:31 PM on January 30, 2015


It's a Creole versus Cajun divide.

Ohhh, yeah, that makes sense. Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:33 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Purist by Ogden Nash

I give you now Professor Twist
A conscientious scientist
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles
Camped on a tropic riverside
One day he missed his loving bride
She had, the guide informed him later
Been eaten by an alligator
Professor Twist could not but smile
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:33 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


A Bowl Of Red, you say?

Ingredients:
2 1/2 lbs. of ground beef
1 1/4 lbs ground suet

Cooking Directions:
In a large kettle melt suet over low heat, stirring frequently to avoid sticking or burning. When thoroughly melted, add ground beef a little at a time stirring and pressing against sides of kettle to break up meat as fine as possible until all meat is thoroughly browned. Add chili blend and mix thoroughly. Lower heat and allow mixture to simmer very slowly for 20 minutes.
posted by Floydd at 1:34 PM on January 30, 2015


But while we're on the topic of tomatoes - I think we can all agree that any soup which contains tomatoes and clams, but not milk, should not call itself "chowder".

I plant my flag there, I make my stand, I can do no other.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:35 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


you have described a bloody mary.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:36 PM on January 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


There's traditional northern New Mexican cooking and then there's "New Mexican" food as promulgated by popular Santa Fe/ABQ restaurants and while they overlap, there's a tendency toward defining "authenticity" in ways that aren't as authentic as it seems.

Just so you know, I lived for 29 years (from basically birth) in Las Cruces, and that's how enchiladas are served there. At high school enchilada fundraisers, at hispanic friends' houses for dinner when I was visiting, at restaurants, basically everywhere. There are rolled enchiladas, indeed, in this same region.

But I was actually making a statement about how regionality can define what you think of as "this is the real thing". Of course rolled enchiladas are real enchiladas. But when I make enchiladas at home, they are homemade sauce from dried chiles, stacked, with a fried egg on top.

That actually isn't from SF/ABQ area. They stole it from the southern part of the state. (Which is basically the political/social dynamic in New Mexico.)

I now live in the Spokane WA area... exact same dynamic between Spokane/Seattle as between Las Cruces/Albuquerque
posted by hippybear at 1:36 PM on January 30, 2015


It will taste better the second day, still better the third, and absolutely superb the fourth.

Yes. Having eaten chili Mon-Thurs this week*, I can attest that this is key. I'm sad there isn't any left for tonight, especially given the fact it's been freakin' lake-effect snowing all day.

* Ground turkey with three kinds of beans, thickened with masa harina, for those who want to fight me, or my partner who made it.
posted by aught at 1:37 PM on January 30, 2015


"And now I need to go make a whole bunch of vegetarian chilli with 4-5 kinds of bean, celery for crunch, and probably some secret marmite for umami flavour."

All marmite should be secret.
posted by el io at 1:37 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is there anything that Texas Bigotry can't ruin?
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:39 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well I dunno about chili, but y'all don't steal the beans outta my cassoulet !
posted by SageLeVoid at 1:41 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Had no idea, but now I will be making chili in the next couple days.

What *shall* I put in it?
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:41 PM on January 30, 2015


BBQ?
posted by Carillon at 1:41 PM on January 30, 2015


Barbecue in chili can be fucking amazing.
posted by Seamus at 1:42 PM on January 30, 2015


you have described a bloody mary.

Well, yeah. A tomato-based clam soup is a perfectly lovely soup. I once got seduced by a batch of cioppino, I know it's a lovely soup. But "clam chowder", if done properly, does not contain any tomatoes. I say this as a daughter of New England.

So it's a great soup (or drink or whatever), but just don't call it "chowder" is all because that's just not right.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on January 30, 2015


I've always held that chili is sort of like a sauce, or a base not really a dish. So if you want to add beans to your chili to make a chili/bean dish, I say that's perfectly fine. I add crumbled crackers, crumbled tortilla chips, and a lot of cheese to mine.

But cooking it with beans just seems odd to me. Like cooking pizza with that powdery stuff they call Parmesan cheese instead of adding it at before eating. Or having shoes with built in socks. I won't say you're evil for doing so, but I do think its kind of weird.
posted by sotonohito at 1:46 PM on January 30, 2015


Hippybear asks, Am I the only one who remembers how Pace picante sauce commercials originally had the non-Pace picante sauce being made in New Jersey (NEW JERSEY!?!?!)

No, you're not. I always thought it had a better rhythm for the punchline when it was New Jersey, too.
posted by fedward at 1:48 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Had no idea, but now I will be making chili in the next couple days.

What *shall* I put in it?


Duh. Dirty pennies, of course.
posted by aught at 1:50 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I see red chile as a sauce or a stew but chili, in the Texas sense of the word, is more of a stew than a sauce. I see it served in a bowl by itself with garnishes and breadkind on the side.
Unlike red chile, I never see chili used as a sauce.
And cooking beans in a stew seems like a perfectly cromulent choice.
posted by Seamus at 1:50 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fuck anyone who declares what chili must be.

Make it how you like it. Dishes aren't damned museum pieces, unalterable. Even chili. "Authentic" is a tiresome flag waved by too many fat old men in rodeo belt buckles and stetsons.

Cook away, folks! Do it your way!
posted by Thorzdad at 1:51 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


If anyone would like my recipe for Cincinnati-stuff-you-serve-on-spaghetti-that-may-or-may-not-count-as-chili, memail me.
posted by JanetLand at 1:53 PM on January 30, 2015


Since Texans will not abide any variation on an original definition, and since the original definition of "ranger" is a warden of forests or parks, I assume that Texas is currently renaming the Texas Rangers, and that the news just hasn't reached me yet.
posted by foldedfish at 1:54 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know . . . the chili as sauce thing is interesting.
There is the tex-mex enchilada thing, made with a meaty-chili-like sauce (a la Dart Bowl in Austin) but what do they call it? I don't remember.
posted by Seamus at 1:54 PM on January 30, 2015


I mean, isn't there SOMETHING that defines chili for everyone? (23Skidoo)

A think, chunky soup or stew with a mix of ingredients, and a balance of American(ish) spices reminiscent of Tex-Mex, Mexican, or Southwestern foods. Ingredients may be roasted before going into the pot. Usually containing two or more of:

— Beans
— Chile peppers (key ingredient)
— Meat, usually pork, goat, beef or lamb
— Onions
— Tomatoes

This is an actual fight in our house. I am no prescriptivist but my wife’s lovely Masala vegetable stew (which I LOVE) is NOT CHILI DAMNNIT
posted by axoplasm at 1:57 PM on January 30, 2015


There is the tex-mex enchilada thing, made with a meaty-chili-like sauce

We usually call it a chili con carne enchilada.
posted by muddgirl at 2:02 PM on January 30, 2015


Prescriptivists are the worst. I'll put beans in my chili or make a deep-dish pizza or whatever and I'll call it whatever I want. Quit getting mad over a damn word.
posted by downtohisturtles at 2:03 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


hippybear: "Much like how you cannot make a molé without cocoa, you cannot make chili without chile."

Mole (there's no accent there) does not necessarily contain cocoa. Mole poblano, the most commonly known type, certainly does, and in general I think the reddish-brown moles pretty much all contain some cocoa, but green mole definitely does not, nor does guacamole (same root, there). A mole is just a thick sauce.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:03 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reading through this batch of comments, what we have is clear: chili is a local thing, reflecting a specific area and its conventions...whereas one can argue about the best places in the country for pizza, with chili one merely notes what they are used to (and how yummy it is) where he lives. I have a few chili cookbooks and try various kinds, and so that way I do not have to remain local and can chill(i) out.
posted by Postroad at 2:03 PM on January 30, 2015


We usually call it a chili con carne enchilada.

... although in tex-mex specific restaurants it will sometimes be unmarked as just an enchilada.
posted by muddgirl at 2:05 PM on January 30, 2015


leotrotsky: "Of course, you order a martini in France, and you'll get a glass of vermouth as an aperitif, so there's that."

Happened to me in Spain recently. Disappointing, plus I didn't look nearly as suave as I wanted drinking it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:05 PM on January 30, 2015


Seems obligatory: P.J. O'Rourke's Genuine Texas Six-Gun Double-Toilet Chili.
posted by Kylio at 2:09 PM on January 30, 2015


I only discovered non-bean chili as an adult and it was a revelation. I was raised with a watery, bean-filled, and low to no meat chili that I hated. It was the taste of us not having a lot of money after mom was in that accident what with the medical bills and her unable to work.
posted by Area Man at 2:10 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I cooked competition chili for CASI ( Chili Appreciation Society International) for about six years. I can tell you that they are serious about chili, and their definition of chili is meat and sauce, period. Any visible vegetable matter is big minus points. You can eat your chili over beans or anything else you like, but chili is only meat and sauce. YMMV, of course.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:19 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]



Cincinnati: Yeah, Texas, hold the beans.

I want you to hold the beans.

I want you to hold 'em between your knees.
 
posted by Herodios at 2:20 PM on January 30, 2015


The secret to good chili, just like the secret to a good red sauce or beef stew or curry, is to put an entire head of garlic in.
posted by The Whelk at 2:22 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Word of warning: If you start messing around with what makes chili chili, you could end up married.

If you missed this, please, run, don't walk, back up to flyingfox's comment and read the best bit of writing on Metafilter so far this year.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:24 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've often felt that chili without beans is just sloppy joe filling.
posted by Foosnark at 2:26 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


It was a weird moment of synchronicity for me that I opened up Metafilter on my phone and saw this story just moments after realizing that I was eating lunch a few tables over from Mark Bittman himself.

I managed to resist the urge to shout "BEANS!" at him though.
posted by nicolas.bray at 2:26 PM on January 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


THE SPEICAL BEANS
posted by The Whelk at 2:27 PM on January 30, 2015


I suspect that the root of the matter is that Texans have evolved to get all of their vitamins from beef, and so find most vegetable matter to be superfluous.
posted by pipeski at 2:28 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was not born in Texas but have lived there and have deep family roots there. I have also been eating chili for all of my 50+ years and cooking it for most of them. Needless to say I have some well-reasoned and insightful opinions on the subject. Thus, here are Ted's 9 immutable laws of Chili:

1. Texas chili (or just chili with no modifiers added) contains beef, preferably chopped/cubed/coarsely ground, onions, garlic, and other spices of which capsicums are the most prominent. Cumin is a good additive and more exotic flavorings such as coriander and chocolate are perfectly fine as long as they serve to add complexity to the flavor and do not alter the basic taste of the dish.

2. Beer is desirable as all or part of the liquid. Other options such as stock or tequila are fine as well but may be looked upon as unnecessary embellishment

3. Tomato paste or sauce is an acceptable additive; identifiable pieces of tomato are not.

4. Pinto beans are an acceptable additive, but are preferably served on the side. Kidney, black, or other varieties have no business in a proper bowl of chili.

5. Bell peppers, despite being in the capsicum family, do not belong in chili.

6. Masa harina is the ideal thickener and is now widely available in the United states, but in a pinch crushed tortilla chips, corn meal, or even (as a last resort) flour are acceptable substitutes.

7. Any other food called "chili" must include an appropriate modifier in order to avoid confusion. This includes, but is not limited to, chili verde, chili colorado, white chili, and Cincinnati chili.

8. The existence of chili con carne implies the existence of chili sin carne, or vegetarian chili.

9. Chili gravy is is a closely related food that may or may not include beef.


Today I proudly fly my prescriptivist flag high!
posted by TedW at 2:29 PM on January 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


I remember the first time I had Cincinnati-style chili - it reminded me strongly of what my Greek grandmother called saltsa kima. And when I looked up the history of Cincinnati chili, there's really no surprise as to why that bowl of chili tasted so much like my yia-yia's kima:

In 1922, a Macedonian immigrant, Tom Athanas Kiradjieff settled in Cincinnati with his brother, John. He opened a hot dog stand, which he named 'Empress' and sold hot dogs and Greek food. He did a lousy business because, at that time, the large majority of the inhabitants were of German heritage, and nobody in the area knew anything about Greek food, and weren't thrilled by it.

Tom was not to be defeated. He took a Greek stew, maintained the Mediterranean spices of Cinnamon and Cloves, changed the meat to ground beef, and added other spices, such as chili powder, to the mix and began to sell this stew over spaghetti and called it 'Chili.'

posted by longdaysjourney at 2:46 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


What *shall* I put in it?

Duh. Dirty pennies, of course.


Dirty Pennie's what?
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:52 PM on January 30, 2015


*We want Chili Wili! We want Chili Wili!*

I find that if you throw a prescriptivist into your cooking chili, no matter what type, they generally stop complaining.
posted by ilana at 3:08 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


But while we're on the topic of tomatoes - I think we can all agree that any soup which contains tomatoes and clams, but not milk, should not call itself "chowder".

Rhode Island has four varieties of clam chowder, and they're all called chowder because people only knew one soup that had clams in as the predominant protein, and it was chowder. So, Portuguese and French bivalve stews became, variously, Manhattan style, Red style, and Rhode Island style chowders. It's been that way for a century, and ain't gonna change. Rhode Islanders also do fun things like use Italian pancetta or Portuguese chourico (pron. "sha-REESE") sausage in place of bacon, kale in place of celery, and quahogs in place of true clams.

Only folks north of Mansfield and east of Fairhaven really get prescriptivist about chowder. Rhode Island creamy style chowder, because it takes chances and is part of a magpie cuisine cheerfully adopted from every immigrant community that wanders through, makes a more interesting and to my palate satisfying chowder than the carefully curated celery, carrots, bacon and clams cream concoction you find elsewhere.

Also, because there are a dozen ways to do it, you have a much larger set of people to scorn for doing it wrong, and to betray once you decide you like doing it the other way. See also: Johnny Cakes.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:21 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


oh hohoho and what does a champagne glass look like

Oh man, how confused my roommate was about Marie Antoinette's physique, when he first heard the champagne coupe origin myth while thinking of champagne flutes!
posted by fings at 3:25 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


230 comments. I did not see that coming.
posted by gwint at 3:26 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't like flutes cause whenever people are holding them in movies something bad happens like The Riddler attacks your gala
posted by The Whelk at 3:27 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Or someone uses your fingerprints on one to steal the declaration of independence.
posted by Carillon at 3:28 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Don't coupes seem like the best glass to throw a drink in someone's face?
posted by muddgirl at 3:35 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


TIL that Rhode Island is big enough for that many chowder opinions.
posted by Sara C. at 3:40 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


To give you an idea how eclectic and inclusive Texas cuisine can be I invite you to peruse the Robb Walsh blog...
posted by jim in austin at 3:40 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


A soup food truck that only serves chowder varieties called CHOWDER OPINIONS
posted by The Whelk at 3:42 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Forget it, guys, it's Texas.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 3:45 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have lived in Texas for the last 20 years, and I have many friends who are native Texans. I have gotten over the requirement for me to call my chili "spicy meat and bean stew" or "non-competition-rules chili," in order to keep the peace.

Also it keeps them from getting a rope when I go all Jon Stewart on the definition of pizza. Yankee till I die!
posted by blurker at 3:55 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suspect that the root of the matter is that Texans have evolved to get all of their vitamins from beef, and so find most vegetable matter to be superfluous.

I think you'll find, per the Texas Board of Education, that Texans were designed, not evolved.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:56 PM on January 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


How long has it been since you've had a big steaming bowl of Wolf Brand chili?

...well that's too long!

(showing my age with obscure old tv commercial...)
posted by CrowGoat at 4:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Take a cue from Hard Times Cafe, which makes its Texas, Cincinnati and Terlingua chilis to specific recipes from the era of cattle drives (and also makes a damn fine vegetarian chili that I would never insult by calling "stew."

Basically, none of their chilis are made with beans. All of them are optionally served that way. Because food prescriptivists are wrong.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:09 PM on January 30, 2015


I come from a land where our culinary apogee is a sandwich, when made authentically, must use cheez-wiz.

Authentic != better #probeans
posted by cmfletcher at 4:13 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Anyone that would put beans in chili would probably put milk in coffee!

(Written with the kind of oozing disdain that beggars the ability of computerized typography to convey).
posted by Chitownfats at 4:20 PM on January 30, 2015


Goulash has beans in it? Ye gods! Try telling that to a Hungarian....

But for chili... you need to come over here and have a Genuine South London Chili. Recipe available on request ;-)

(I once met a Texan who offered to tell me how to make 'real' chili, and I said fine, provided I could tell him how to make 'real' beer....)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 4:20 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


hmmm - 43rdAnd9th, you are behind the times - americans actually know how to make real beer these days
posted by pyramid termite at 4:38 PM on January 30, 2015


There's No Such Thing as Nacho Cheese
posted by peeedro at 4:39 PM on January 30, 2015


All I know is that when I want chili, which is rarely, I'm most likely to use the recipe from “The Big Chili” episode of Good Eats.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:48 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a recipe for "Authentic New York Gumbo". I leave the details to your imagination.
posted by mikelieman at 5:08 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Much like how you cannot make a molé without cocoa, you cannot make chili without chile.

I ate a "chili con carne" in London that had never been touched by chiles of any sort. I would describe it as "beef with cumin". No beans, and no chile.

I make chili without beans or tomatoes: 3-5 kinds of dried chiles ground up, garlic, masa harina, some other secret stuff, and a chuck roast. Beans are fine in ground meat chili, but with chunks of beef they seem beside the point.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:13 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


English interpretations of Mexcian/amerimexican/TexMex cuisine are often hilariously missing the point but it takes the French to do something as bold as straight up serving a mirepoix in a taco shell.
posted by The Whelk at 5:20 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


The best chowder I've had was a Rhode Island corn and clam chowder. I could eat that stuff FOREVER.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:20 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would describe it as "beef with cumin". No beans, and no chile.

Yeah I have to be careful around my English SO cause if He says he wants chili I have to make sure he doesn't actually want the beef cumin stew with beans he was served as a child that they CALLED chili but contained no such thing.
posted by The Whelk at 5:26 PM on January 30, 2015


So, what I'm getting here is that you shouldn't put the lime in the coconut?
posted by mikurski at 5:39 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


We make a vegetarian chili. The special ingredients are bulgur wheat (1/2 cup) and balsamic vinegar (1/4 cup at the end).
posted by curious nu at 6:01 PM on January 30, 2015


I appreciate the fact that there are people trying to keep certain foods (and dishes) as authentic as possible. Europe is rather ticklish on this point, protecting the names of regional foods, correct? Granted, chili is a recipe, but shouldn't it still matter, especially in a world where fewer and fewer companies have more and more control of what and how we eat? Isn't this all part of a bigger discussion, just like the dust up over Cadbury Creme Eggs being made with a different type of milk chocolate? People take their food seriously, and considering what's being done to our food, maybe overreacting is understandable.
posted by Beholder at 7:17 PM on January 30, 2015


Might as well guzzle a jar of Ragú while you're at it

Open both ends of the can and you can shotgun it.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:26 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Europe protects indigenous foods by saying "You're only allowed to call your wine champagne if it uses these grapes, is grown in this manner, and comes from this specific place." It would be more like saying authentic chili only comes from Texas between the Pecos and Rio Grande rivers, and must use shredded prime rib from Texas-raised longhorn cows. And less like dictating the ingredients of a recipe.

Not to mention that the AOC restrictions in Europe have to do with products for sale, whereas, I dunno, is there really a problem with restaurants duping the public by selling inauthentic chili? Most of this battle is between home cooks, anyway, who can call the dish coq au vin if it makes them happy. There's no way to legislate what people call the meals they prepare in the privacy of their own homes.
posted by Sara C. at 7:30 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I won't take linguisto-culinary lessons from a people who don't even know what animal barbecue is made from.

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Ham?
Lisa: No!
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal!
Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:32 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


>>But while we're on the topic of tomatoes - I think we can all agree that any soup which contains tomatoes and clams, but not milk, should not call itself "chowder".

>you have described a bloody mary.


If it's got clam it's a Bloody Caesar.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:33 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Europe is rather ticklish on this point, protecting the names of regional foods, correct?

France protects e.g. wine designations, but doesn't rule on the proper recipe for cassoulet, which has a split like clam chowder in the states. They protect Nicoise olives but not, I think, 'herbes de provence.'

Single products, not recipes. Or so it seems to me.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:38 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


If it's got clam it's a Bloody Caesar.

Sooo good. Even just with Clamato.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:34 PM on January 30, 2015


If it's got clam it's a Bloody Caesar.

It's very difficult for me not to read this in a Michael Caine voice
posted by Greg Nog at 9:13 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


…is there really a problem with restaurants duping the public by selling inauthentic chili?

Judging by what passes for chili in some people's minds, I would have to say that is definitely a problem.
posted by TedW at 9:52 PM on January 30, 2015


I just want to go live in Chile
posted by anadem at 10:03 PM on January 30, 2015



…is there really a problem with restaurants duping the public by selling inauthentic chili?


I don't know if "duping" is the right word, and I'm ok with the idea of "inauthentic is not a real concept," but there is absolutely a problem with restaurants selling bad chili. Hell, it's possible to make supposedly authentic chili, with the approved list of ingredients, and still have it be terrible because the proportions are wrong or you cooked it weird.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's not really something that AOC certifications protect people from, though. Setting standards for what champagne is doesn't mean all champagne is delicious. It just means that all champagne is made in the agreed-upon way.

I think we're always going to run the risk that our chili recipe might not pan out. Even if we get narrowly prescriptive about what authentic chili is.

AOC prevents me from making a concoction of seltzer, grain alcohol, corn syrup, and artificial flavoring and calling it champagne. It doesn't prevent anyone from selling mediocre champagne.
posted by Sara C. at 10:38 PM on January 30, 2015


As an antipodean, my take away from all this is that 'real' Texans that make 'real' Texan chili are all secret Pythagoreans
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 10:46 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Hello, I'm David McGahan, I salute you.
posted by hippybear at 10:50 PM on January 30, 2015


making a concoction of seltzer, grain alcohol, corn syrup, and artificial flavoring and calling it champagne.

What should we call it, then?
posted by asperity at 11:14 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


If we can bump the alcohol levels up to 12%, we could call it Four Loko.
posted by peeedro at 11:22 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Four Loko?
posted by hippybear at 11:22 PM on January 30, 2015


Four Loko. An American concoction of seltzer, grain alcohol, corn syrup, and artificial coloring and flavoring. Somewhat similar to champagne.
posted by peeedro at 11:27 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm late to the discussion, but I like to hear myself talk, so here goes. My father was from Texas and my mother was from Brooklyn, so I grew up eating Compromise Chili, which of course includes slices of pizza as an ingredient. But none of that Second City deep dish abomination, no sir! When my mother had her back turned in the kitchen my father would throw a couple of hooves into the chili pot because he liked it extra hoofy. Did it have beans in it, you ask? I'll never tell, because a girl has to keep a certain air of mystery about herself. OK, I'll go ahead and tell you: It had green beans in it which was the result of another compromise. My father insisted on eating it with a knife and fork, but my mother swore that folding it in half and eating it out of your hand is the only true way. When my parents died after disregarding unanimous sensible advice in a "should I eat this" AskMe, I found myself a homeless waif wandering the streets of Cincinnati with only my lucky tomato and open carry sidearm for company, shouting "Don't mess with Texas!" at anyone who dared to cross my swaggering path. So much for compromise.

BTW, I make a mean pot of chili and if you don't think so just wait for 30 minutes and you and everyone within a 20 foot radius will know the truth.
posted by Daddy-O at 4:18 AM on January 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Until I met someone from east Texas where everything is served with rice, including chili."

WHAT?????? Having been born and raised in East Texas, I can assure you that this was no East Texan.
posted by bradth27 at 6:56 AM on January 31, 2015


Look, I'm no philologist, but I do have a phrase that I use all the time: "Words mean things". An slight revision to that might be "Combinations of words mean more specific things". Using general terms or incorrect terms increases the probability that the meaning you wish to communicate will be misunderstood by your audience. However, one can get away with fewer words, or less specificity, if one takes into account context or has some knowledge of the audience.

Take, for example, the word "truck". What did you picture in your mind? If it was a "pickup truck" there are all kind of those: 2WD, 4WD, Monster, low-rider, antique, vintage, brand. But there are cube trucks, semi trucks. Heck those little two wheel carts that you use to move boxes around in a warehouse are called "trucks". In some contexts you can say, "Use the truck" and both you and your audience will know exactly what you are referring to. But to avoid misunderstandings, you might want to be more precise with your language.

For lack of a better word, people will "tribalize" virtually anything. A tendency to identify with "Our way" vs "the other's way" is strong whether the tribe is from a particular state or region, country, religion, sexual self-identification, race, country of origin, the list goes on and on. There will always be people who try to keep tribes in their "herd" or influence their thoughts by reminding them of what "our way" is, particularly if that thing is being influenced by outside forces. The problem is that language is a fluid thing. And the more fluid the intermixing is between people of a different states, regions, countries, religions, sexual self-identifications, races, countries of origin (the list goes on and on) the more that fluidity will be impossible to control. Language and even words evolve over time.

In some cases you can try to legislate words or officially negotiate a word's usage, but this is rare. The Treaty of Versailles includes a clause that the word "champagne" must refer only to the product from a specific region of France. If your group opens a bottle of Korbel on New Year's Eve, there may be one pendantic in the crowd that reminds you that you are not drinking "real champagne" and he's technically right, but he's still being pendantic (and fighting what will eventually be a losing battle).
posted by spock at 7:05 AM on January 31, 2015


there may be one pendantic in the crowd that reminds you that you are not drinking "real champagne" and he's technically right

Nope. He's just speaking in ways that comply with European law, which is not the same thing as being correct.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:35 AM on January 31, 2015


Assuming that "correct" means what you think it means, eh? (It's turtles all the way down).
posted by spock at 7:49 AM on January 31, 2015


You'd almost think that words carry meanings and connotations that vary by context
posted by Dip Flash at 8:19 AM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


hmmm - 43rdAnd9th, you are behind the times - americans actually know how to make real beer these days

Oh, *I* definitely know that[1], but this guy wasn't one of the Americans who seemed to have caught up with the fact. Can't remember whether it was Miller or Coors that was being held up as an example of real beer.

[1] Last week in NY... Two Roads Rye 95, Ommegang Hennepin and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, among others. Despite being a firm lover of traditional warm, flat, English bitter, I will happily agree that Americans (and not a few Canadians) know how to make very good beer indeed.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 8:45 AM on January 31, 2015


(and fighting what will eventually be a losing battle)

Au contraire. At this point most people have gotten on board with the "champagne is only from France" idea, and terms for other sparkling wines have become customary. See for instance the popularity of prosecco and cava.

The thing is, we need a catchy name for domestic sparkling wines. Nobody wants to say "California Sparkling White Wine", so we still find ourselves calling Korbel "champagne" for brevity's sake. I had a really good California sparkling wine at Christmas this year (in fact I think that's what my brother was drinking out of that ice cream dish, which, wow, classy), but... champagne for shorthand purposes.
posted by Sara C. at 10:11 AM on January 31, 2015


SPARKLE JUICE
posted by The Whelk at 10:11 AM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Mimosa mix"
posted by Dip Flash at 10:45 AM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Spoog'on'me -- because Calipornia

Proshizzo -- because Snoop is from one of the Californias
posted by aydeejones at 10:50 AM on January 31, 2015


Also acceptable, Fizzy Shizzy
posted by aydeejones at 10:50 AM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Chamkale
posted by zippy at 11:53 AM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bublé
posted by jason_steakums at 11:58 AM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Champagne of Wine (To distinguish it from Miller High Life)
posted by Drinky Die at 12:02 PM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Welk
posted by Room 641-A at 12:10 PM on January 31, 2015


The beans always wind up in the chili when I'm done digesting it.
posted by Renoroc at 12:55 PM on January 31, 2015


Trucks?

Oh, you mean lorries.

Words mean exactly what a particular grouping of people mean them to mean. That's why language is like fully sick mate.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 2:17 PM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Chili can have beans and still be chili, it's just not as good as a meat chili. IMO, the beans just take up room that is needed for my saltine cracker garnish.

My SO feels the opposite and has several vegan or vegetarian friends, so she always kindly makes two pots. One with beans and no meat and one with meat and no beans. She mixes the two for herself, since she prefers meat and beans. In the end, all 3 options are quite tasty, so I'm not quite sure why people get het up about it, unless the beans are mushy, in which case fuck beans.
posted by wierdo at 3:14 PM on January 31, 2015


As a result of this thread today I made Creole Jambalaya. Yes, I know I'm doing it wrong.

I also realized that my sacrilege in this is not so much the tomatoes but that I add red beans. Mostly because the first time I made jambalaya I was going to make rice and red beans and realized I was nearly to the far better dish.
posted by mountmccabe at 5:04 PM on January 31, 2015


Much like how you cannot make a molé without cocoa

I make mole without cocoa all the time - see, for example, Oaxacan yellow mole, or mole verde.

There are many moles, just as there are many chilis, and grizzling about this simply takes up valuable eating, drinking, lovemaking and sleeping time.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:43 PM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay, it's one thing to troll Texans about whether chili has beans in it, but why would a food writer of any sort take on the French? Cassoulet is a slow-cooked bean casserole with meat. It's a matter of definition, not authenticity. Saying that chili without beans is like cassoulet is like saying water without alcohol in it is like absolute ethanol. It is total madness and Bittmann must be stopped.
posted by gingerest at 10:21 PM on January 31, 2015


Vegetarian White Bean Cassoulet

I've made this, it's great. I add a bit extra of the Italian seasoning.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:05 PM on January 31, 2015


I also realized that my sacrilege in this is not so much the tomatoes but that I add red beans.

Eh, personally I think it's OK. I'm not sure it's still jambalaya, but, sure.

When I went vegetarian in college (I should admit I had moved north by this point), invented a jambalaya sans tomatoes, but with beans, mushrooms, and asparagus. It was delicious. But I'm still not entirely sure it was jambalaya.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 PM on January 31, 2015


Oh, and you guys should try this hummus recipe from the Canadian Lentil Board:

5 Minute Lentil Hummus

Ingredients
1 (19 oz/540 mL) can green lentils, drained and rinsed
½ cup (125 mL) fat-free ranch dressing
½ tsp (2 mL) curry powder
2 garlic cloves

posted by Drinky Die at 11:14 PM on January 31, 2015


(Seriously, it's almost 2:30 AM on the East Coast, you just got home from the bar. You have those ingredients or a reasonable substitute. Maybe blue cheese dressing and canned black eyed peas. Go on. It only takes 5 minutes.)
posted by Drinky Die at 11:17 PM on January 31, 2015


Cassoulet is a slow-cooked bean casserole with meat. It's a matter of definition, not authenticity.

Not necessarily so. White beans and confit duck or goose are standard, but 'authentic' cassoulet depends after that on geographic origin; in some places one includes sausage. In others they would shriek in horror that you're not using mutton.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:34 AM on February 1, 2015


try this hummus recipe from the Canadian Lentil Board

This sounds like a line from The Young Ones or Delicious Dish.
posted by zippy at 10:54 AM on February 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


5 pounds of flat iron
18 oz. Corona
3 serranos
2 poblanos
2 pasillas
Some tortilla chips all crushed up
A onion
Some garlic
Spices (cumin, etc) to taste

Sear the meats, roast the chiles
Then the spices and aromatics

Deglaze with the beer
Put it all in the slow pot and exercise some damn patience

I just did this at 8:00 am today. I think (hope) it will work out for tonight.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:14 AM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also what would be the ingredients of a hamtini

Obviously

(rum ham--hamtini, same difference)
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:07 PM on February 1, 2015


(me:) Cassoulet is a slow-cooked bean casserole with meat. It's a matter of definition, not authenticity.

(you:) Not necessarily so. White beans and confit duck or goose are standard, but 'authentic' cassoulet depends after that on geographic origin; in some places one includes sausage. In others they would shriek in horror that you're not using mutton.


But the beans are the part that's definitional (along with the slow-cooking with some tasty bits of meat - the fundamental casseroleness) - there's no cassoulet without beans, which means Bittmann's notion that chili without beans is somehow turning into cassoulet is just backwards.
posted by gingerest at 9:47 PM on February 1, 2015


Oh, sorry, I was only using cassoulet as an example of something like a chili, over which there are definite Opinions about certain ingredients (e.g. sausage), which was largely in response to what people were saying about AOC laws. Not what Bittman was saying.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:55 PM on February 1, 2015


Hell, it's possible to make supposedly authentic chili, with the approved list of ingredients, and still have it be terrible because the proportions are wrong or you cooked it weird.

Driving home from Gardner State Park yesterday, we got to talking about Frito Pie and, thus, NEEDED Frito pie for lunch. A little research led us to the "best" Frito pie in the Bandera/Boerne area.

Frito pie being a mixture of chili, Fritos and cheese, the quality of the chili is paramount to making the dish palatable. So we ate real Texas chili made by real Texans and, damn, if that wasn't just some watery, mildly spiced beef stew, I don't know what it was.

Some beans in there would have done nothing but improve the flavor. The flavor would have been improved by . . . I don't know . . . some chiles, maybe.

My point? Something can meet a specific prescriptivist definition of Texas chili and still suck. I'll keep putting beans in making it the way I like.
posted by Seamus at 6:12 AM on February 2, 2015


WHAT?????? Having been born and raised in East Texas, I can assure you that this was no East Texan.

Oh, dear gods, yes they are. Multi-generational folks who will trace their ancestry for you at the drop of a hat while serving you rice with your breakfast cereal.
posted by Seamus at 6:16 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Coastal" east Texas.
There is a difference there from the woodsy folk.
posted by Seamus at 6:17 AM on February 2, 2015


1 (19 oz/540 mL) can green lentils, drained and rinsed

Wait. Lentils come in cans now?
Have they always? Beans are one of the few things I will purchase in cans and the idea of canned lentils is so . . . weird that I know that I would have commented on them if I had ever seen them. Do they keep canned pulses separate from canned beans?
Now I need to go to the grocery store to see if I have just overlooked the existence of this canned good.
(Also . . . when it takes no time at all to cook lentils, why buy them in a can?)
posted by Seamus at 6:23 AM on February 2, 2015


Cooking green or brown lentils does take some time, not compared to cooking beans, but compared to opening a can. The texture of the canned versions isn't great compared to properly fresh cooked. I would only use them in something where they ended up blended. Look for them with the other Goya cans.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:03 AM on February 2, 2015


Four Loko (and other flavoured malt beverages) do not have grain alcohol (which I'm reading as grain neutral spirits) in the United States. Instead, the producers make an unhopped beer, then ferment that, and then filter all the flavour out of it. It's then sweetened, flavoured, and packaged.

In Europe they mix distilled spirits with water and then sweetened, flavoured, and package.
posted by caphector at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2015


They do end up adding some spirits. The whole thing is one of those bizarre areas where government regulations really are pointless burdensome wastes. Basically, if the water you used was just previously used for fermentation, go ahead and add the spirits!

In the United States, on the other hand, alcopops often start out as un-hopped beers, depending on the state in which they are sold. Much of the malt (and alcohol) is removed (leaving mostly water), with subsequent addition of alcohol (usually vodka or grain alcohol), sugar, coloring and flavoring. Such drinks are legally classified as beers in virtually all states and can therefore be sold in outlets that do not or cannot carry spirit-based drinks.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:18 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Nothin is true. Everything is permitted." ‎Hassan-i Sabbāh
posted by eggtooth at 1:45 PM on February 4, 2015


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