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Tex or Mex? How did it get here?
Trying to glean the origins of one of America’s favorite dishes mostly felt like swimming circles in a bowl of spices, meat, tomatoes, and obscure history. Though written record of the phrase “chile con carne” doesn't actually crop up until the early 1800’s, it is popularly believed that chili has been served in what is now Texas for a few hundred years before that time. But where did it come from? One thing we can be sure of is that it didn't come from Mexico. In the search for chili’s origins an account from a Spanish Conquistador in 1568 was suspected to be a potential source of chili. He wrote that unlucky Spaniards who were caught by the Aztecs ended up sacrificed, butchered and stewed along with tomatoes and chilies. It is unlikely however, that this dish resembles what we know as chili.
We do know that chili is not Tex-Mex, it's mostly just Tex and, actually, not at all Mex.
Most of us here in the North East think of chili as a cold weather dish, warm and spicy, the perfect pick me up for our winter blues; the weather turns and one of the first things we do is make an enormous pot of chili which we freeze and use to sustain ourselves for much of the cold season. However, the common consensus is that the foundations for chili as we know it were brought over from The Canary Islands, a subtropical chain of islands that rarely sees temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Under the control of Spain in the 1700’s, people of the Canary Islands were recruited to move to the part of New Spain that is now San Antonio, Texas bringing this spicy, cumin filled dish with them.
Divine Intervention? Or Chili Queens?
As far as written documentation of chili goes, the most reliable accounts of chili being served speaks of the “Chili Queens” of the Military Plaza Mercado. They made their stew at home and sold it out of colorful carts to everyone from soldiers to tourists in the 1800’s. They became a staple of the Alamo City. It was considered the end of an era when most of the “Chili Queens” were put out of business in 1937 due to their inability to keep up with new sanitary standards enforced in restaurants.
Chili earned its nationwide stardom at the 1893 Chicago World Fair where Texas wowed America with its San Antonio Chili Stand. As the popularity of chili spread, what Texans would refer to as adulteration, began. Come the 1920’s many chili cook books included recipes that called for beans. By the 1940’s tomatoes had become a standard ingredient. Despite a general willingness amongst chili devotees to throw bones about the inclusion of beans, in 2012 the International Chili Society deemed beans a permissible ingredient for chili entered into the annual World Championship Chili Cook-Off.
Simmer on These Hot Facts About Chili
Its Always a Bowl of Chili to Me
When we get to the bottom of the chili bowl, one thing is for certain, chili is what you make it. From Outback Chili in Australia made with armadillos, to Alaskan chili made with moose, to Illinois where they serve it over spaghetti, and lastly to your own kitchen, it seems that everyone has their own idea of what chili should be. So whether your chili recipe includes chicken, beans of any color, tomatoes, beer, chocolate, or balsamic vinegar, the only thing I ask that you do with your chili is this...
Article Researched and Written By Victoria Buckwash