Read About OUR Chili!

I want you to know a little bit about the history of chili before I tell you my favorite family story about OUR chili!  Chili is a concoction of the Southwestern United States, probably more specifically West Texas. 

My favorite legend regarding the origin of chili is a Southwestern American Indian story about a beautiful nun who shared a recipe in the 17th century. Sister Mary of Agreda was in Spain. She was a mystery to the Indians, but was known as “La Dama de Azul” … the lady in blue.  Sister Mary went into trances for days at a time and she would tell that her spirit went to faraway lands where she preached Christianity to natives and encouraged them to look for the Spanish missionaries. Sister Mary shared a recipe for a stew that included venison, antelope meat, onions, tomatoes and chili peppers.

What is so mysterious about this legend?  Sister Mary never left Spain. The recipe she shared was one she learned from American Indians. King Philip IV of Spain and Spanish missionaries (in America) were convinced that she was the lady in blue.

The lady I want to tell you about is my mother.  When she was a young bride, she and Daddy lived in a tiny apartment.  They shared a bathroom with another apartment, but they had their own wood burning stove. Mother’s cook stove also heated the apartment. There was no refrigerator.

Hamburger meat in 1940 was 20 cents a pound, but Daddy was in a local grocery store one day and it was on sale for 20 cents for FIVE POUNDS!  Of course, he took advantage of the deal and happily carried his bargain home to their little apartment!  He had his appetite all set for a few days of juicy hamburgers. You might be questioning their ability to keep the meat cold without a fridge! It was wintertime and Daddy had created a box on the outside of a window where they were able to keep their foods that needed refrigeration!

Because she came from a large family, Mother was an accomplished cook. Because she was accustomed to cooking for several people, her first inclination to use five pounds of ground beef was to make CHILI!  Daddy came home from work, expecting hamburgers and sat down to a bowl of chili.  There was nothing wrong with that, except that they had enough chili for three families! That evening, Daddy delivered chili to a few other families!

I heard this story throughout my life.  Daddy loved to tell it!  What I didn’t know, however, was that the little apartment they lived in was a place I visited regularly.  It was on the second floor of a house that is now used as the General John A. Logan Museum in my hometown.  A couple years before he died, I was delighted to be able to take Daddy to see his first apartment.  Once again, he got to tell his chili story to the museum employees!

If you want to read more about the history of chili, visit What's Cooking America

If you are interested in the General John A. Logan Museum visitLogan Museum

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