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Dietribes: Chili Weather

• Whether it came from the turn-of-the century prison system, the 1893 World’s Fair or the Chili Queens of San Antonio (or from traditional dishes prepared by Mexicans living in the Southwest), chili’s popularity has never slowed – today it carries the distinction (among many) of being the state dish of Texas, a cook-off classic, the way Will Rogers judged a town, and the alleged reason Jesse James refused to rob a bank in McKinney, Texas (because that was where his favorite chili parlor was located).

• Surely many of you, like me, have attended the fierce and fiery competitive event that is the chili cook-off. The ICS (International Chili Society) helps to monitor and judge cook-offs (with profits going to charity) all over the world. Chili judges from the ICS are called, as you could probably guess, Chiliheads.

• For the Record: chili-eating contest won by Richard LeFevre consisted of 1.5 gallons of chili consumed in 10 minutes (kids, don’t try this at home).

• I feel like this is the second example of someone who tragically perished after eating a super-hot chili sauce (although last time was it tabasco?), but if you ever plan on engaging in such crazed behavior, you may first want to ready why it is that only some people are able to eat hot foods (hint: they are likely desensitized to it!).

• Chili peppers that are always safe for consumption? (well, except for the album cover of Stadium Arcadium), The Red Hot Chili Peppers originally called themselves Tony Flow & the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem.

• Who among you has visited the legendary Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, DC? You would be in good company: in its heyday it was not uncommon to see luminaries such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx, Dick Gregory, Martin Luther King Jr or Bill Cosby at “The Bowl.”

• Bill Cosby, being a frequent visitor, was even awarded the distinction of a sign at the counter that reads: “List of who eats free at Ben’s: Bill Cosby. No one else” (although the Obamas were later added to that list).

• My favorite part of this story of Anna Ayala and Jaime Placencia (the couple that admitted to planting a finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili as part of an extortion scheme) is the revelation, “He allegedly obtained the finger from a co-worker whose digit was sheared off by a mechanical truck lift in December, according to court records.” How does one even broach that conversation? “Sooo, look, if you’re not going to be using that anymore …”

• So how many of you have cooked for (and won?) a chili cook-off, what’s that special ingredient to making a fantastic chili, and does anyone know of some tasty vegetarian chili I can find while I’m up here in Chicago this week?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.


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