Cravings for Chili Rise as Temperatures Fall
Hallelujah! For the first time in nearly five months temperatures will not reach above 80 degrees, and lows tonight will be in the 50s. Overjoyed locals will inevitably seize the opportunity to debut their fall fashions, suffering in cable-knit sweaters, tights and wool scarves because--lord knows--this may be the only chance we get. This is Houston, after all. Who knows what next week could bring.
Falling temperatures always awaken the beast that yearns for chili. Some may argue it's still too warm for the dish, but again, this is Houston. When it's 62 degrees outside, we'll be proudly wearing our Uggs, knit caps, and down parkas while wolfing down a bowl of steaming Texas chili.
A few words on "Texas Chili"
The chili that we know and love today most likely originated from a group of Spanish Canary Islanders that settled in San Antonio, Texas in 1731. Spanish priests in the surrounding area preached sermons warning against a dish they called the "Soup of the Devil" and "Hot as Hell's Brimstone." The spicy stew they feared was chock full of chiles -- thought to be an aphrodisiac -- and would no doubt lead to lustful and lascivious acts. This, as you can imagine, only furthered the demand for the dish.
Traditionally, a true "Texas-Style Chili" was made without beans, fruit or vegetables (aside from the chiles, or course). However, after former president Lyndon Johnson suffered a heart attack as the Senate Majority Leader, Lady Bird Johnson adapted his favorite chili recipe, substituting venison for the beef suet, and adding tomatoes and onions. It came to be known as "Pedernales River Chili" after the location of his Hill Country ranch. The First Lady received so many requests for the recipe she had to have it printed on cards to be mailed out.
In 1977, chili manufacturers successfully lobbied the Texas legislature to have chili proclaimed the official "state food" of Texas "in recognition of the fact that the only real 'bowl of red' is that prepared by Texans."
REAL TEXAS Chili
A friend buys REAL TEXAS seasoning packs from the Bear Creek Smokehouse out of Marshall, Texas every year at Nutcracker Market, but they are also available for purchase online. Their chili and gumbo mixes are phenomenal.
3 lbs ground beef or turkey 1 medium onion, chopped 2 28-ounce cans tomatoes 1 15-ounce can tomato puree 1 package REAL TEXAS Chili Mix
Brown and drain 3 pounds of meat. Add onion, tomatoes, tomato puree, and Chili Mix. Simmer one hour for best flavor. Yield: 3 1/2 quarts.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.