We've all had those moments when we are confronted with a ravenous horde (otherwise known as our family) and realized, much to our chagrin, that we really should have gone grocery shopping earlier but just didn't manage to fit it into our day. Ack! That's when it is handy to have a few staples on hand in the pantry.
Raid the Pantry Chili
Into a Dutch oven, add:
24 oz. jar chunky salsa
1/4 c. barbecue sauce
2 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1-1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. paprika
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1/2 c. bulgur
2 c. water
Bring everything to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook about 45 minutes. Serve however you like; my family likes to eat their chili over crunched up tortilla chips.
Chili is a stew-like soup made entirely with meat, chilies, or chili powder (or both) and according to what region of the United States that you live in, it can also include beans. "Con carne" means "with meat."
There are many legends and stories about where chili originated and it is generally thought, by most historians, that the earliest versions of chili were made by the very poorest people. J. C. Clopper, the first American known to have remarked about San Antonio's chili carne, wrote in 1926:
"When they have to pay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for a family; this is generally into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat - this is all stewed together."
According to an old Southwestern American Indian legend and tale, it is said that the first recipe for chili con carne was put on paper in the 17th century by a beautiful nun, Sister Mary of Agreda of Spain. She was mysteriously known to the Indians of the Southwest United States as "La Dama de Azul," the lady in blue. Sister Mary would go into trances with her body lifeless for days. When she awoke from these trances, she said her spirit had been to a faraway land where she preached Christianity to savages and counseled them to seek out Spanish missionaries.
It is certain that Sister Mary never physically left Spain, yet Spanish missionaries and King Philip IV of Spain believed that she was the ghostly "La Dama de Azul" or "lady in blue" of Indian Legend. It is said that sister Mary wrote down the recipe for chili which called for venison or antelope meat, onions, tomatoes, and chile peppers. No accounts of this were ever recorded, so who knows?
Some Spanish priests were said to be wary of the passion inspired by chile peppers, assuming they were aphrodisiacs. A few preached sermons against indulgence in a food which they said was almost as "hot as hell's brimstone" and "Soup of the Devil." The priest's warning probably contributed to the dish's popularity.
The only thing certain about the origins of chili is that it did not originate in Mexico. Charles Ramsdell, a writer from San Antonio in an article called San Antonio: An Historical and Pictorial Guide, wrote:
"Chili, as we know it in the U.S., cannot be found in Mexico today except in a few spots which cater to tourists. If chili had come from Mexico, it would still be there. For Mexicans, especially those of Indian ancestry, do not change their culinary customs from one generation, or even from one century, to another."
If there is any doubt about what the Mexicans think about chili, the Diccionario de Mejicanismos, published in 1959, defines chili con carne as (roughly translated):
“detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the U.S. from Texas to New York.”
Chili historians are not exactly certain who first "invented" chili powder. It is agreed that the inventors of chili powder deserve a slot in history close to Alfred Nobel (1933-1896), inventor of dynamite.
Wherever it came from, it is one of the most versatile dishes I know of. It tolerates variation to variation, and always come out good.