An Evolution of Chili
January 20, 2014 § 4 Comments
Long, long ago, in a state far, far away, I was a little girl living in Fort Worth on McCart Street with my father, my mother, my older brother, my younger sister, and Skipper, the family Cocker Spaniel. We did Texas type things, we kids—roller skating on uneven sidewalks, zoo visiting, lightning-bug chases, tarantula safaris … the usual. This life was idyllic, slow-motion-ecstatic, a thing of beauty, the Great American Novel waiting to be written ….
At five I had also become an aficionado of all things good to eat: fried apple pies, lighter-than-air dinner rolls, biscuits-and-gravy for breakfast, meatloaf, chocolate frappé, Mother’s chocolate-pudding pie with whipped cream topping, iced dill pickle juice.
Then one day my life changed.
[I never have decided whether this first visit was to see if we had inherited the Tex-Mex gene, or to find out if they could stand traveling across the south with 3 kids in a 1949 2-door Chevy and eat publicly with them in restaurants.]
No matter, my fate was sealed. One taste of salsa and tortilla chips, guacamole and tortilla chips, a cheese and onion enchilada with beef chili sauce and Mexican rice, and I was hooked. It’s still my favorite. Oh, I’ll eat hors d’oeuvre tamales for New Years. A quick drive through Taco Bell for three crispy beef tacos is a weekly ritual. And there are some restaurants, in San Antonio for instance, where fajitas are the 5-star feature … I’ll go for that. But cheese and onion enchiladas with beef chili sauce and Mexican rice? No contest. I’ll order it every time!
But I don’t live in Texas now. I’ve lived in Florida for 10+ years and before that 15 in New Jersey, 3+ in Missouri, 7 in Brazil, 2 in Tennessee, and 1 summer in New Mexico (heaven). That’s 38 of my 70 years not in Texas, and I still call myself a Texan, and Tex-Mex is still my favorite food.
For a wondering Texan, what’s the best way to stay Tex-Mex happy? Make my own chili. Of course, the chili has evolved as my hair has grown grayer.
When I was younger, I made 3-alarm chili –
Ingredients: 1 “Wick Fowler 2-Alarm Chili Kit” (okay, so I don’t measure my own ingredients, but good-ole Wick won the Terlingua, TX Chili Cook-off for umpteen years in a row, so why not let him do it!); 1 small can of chopped green chilis (with jalapeños); 1 large can of tomato puree and a can of water; 1 can of diced tomatoes with the juice; and 2.5-3 lbs of ground lean beef. (BUT NO BEANS!)
Directions: Brown the beef, drain, put in a large deep pot; dump all ingredients in the pot except the small packet of Massa Harina flour, and cook until the chili starts to thicken (30-45 minutes?). Next put the Massa Harina in a measuring cup, just enough water to mix until it makes a smooth paste, and stir it into the chili. Let the chili cook some more (about another 20-30 minutes) and serve. Or save it for supper.
In my 50s, I made 2-Alarm Chili (same recipe, no jalapeños!).
When I reached 60 I only added half the “red pepper” packet for 1-Alarm chili … and chased it with two sugar-free orange Tums!
Now that I’m 70 I make no-alarm chili (hint: no jalapenos, no “red pepper”) and leave the Tums in the bathroom cabinet. The Tex-Mex taste is there, just not the fire. Of course, I miss the fire, but one must sleep.
You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the love of Tex-Mex out of the girl … Arriba Tex-Mex, muchachos! (Up with Tex-Mex, boys and girls!)
And thanks for sharing, parents.