Monday, February 3, 2014

The Many "Ways" to Eat Chili

During our office chili cook off last Friday, there was a bit of a disagreement among my fellow co-workers regarding what is and what is not considered chili.  While placing our votes for our favorite, someone made a comment about one of the entries, “It’s good, but it’s not chili.”   Upon further discussion there were more comments that chili is only chili if it has a tomato base and ground beef.

Homemade Cincinnati-style Chili
Is this really true?   What about those who substitute turkey for the ground beef?  What about white chicken chili?  How about vegetarian chili?  Or chili made with bison, veal or venison?  I have to believe that what you deem is real chili has a lot to do with where you grew up.  Chili made in San Antonio is probably going to be very different from chili made in Detroit.  And Cincinnati chili is going to be a lot different from chili, say from Chile.

The bridge we used to drive over to get downtown
Nevertheless, chili is in the eye of the beholder.  I was fortunate to spend a good chunk of time living in Northern Kentucky, a short drive across the bridge to downtown Cincinnati.  It was in Cincinnati where I developed a taste and these life-long cravings for the region’s very unique style of chili.  Cincinnati chili, brought to the city by Greek immigrants, is known for its myriad of spices – cinnamon, cloves, allspice and chocolate.  Yes, cocoa powder.  It’s usually served over spaghetti, or you can take the Cheese Coney route which is topped with finely grated cheddar cheese, mustard and a bit of onion. 
All of these spices are what give Cincinnati chili is unique taste
In Cincy, chili parlors are abundant - Skyline, Empress, Gold Star and Dixie are just a handful of chains to choose from.  There are also many “ways” to eat your chili.  Ordering your chili is as easy as one, two, three...

……or four

……or five

Bowl: chili in a bowl
Two-way: chili and spaghetti
Three-way: chili, spaghetti, and cheese
Four-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, and onions
Five-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions, and beans

I’ll take a Three-way, please. 

Simmering chili
Although I no longer live near Cincy, nor do I live near any Cincinnati chili parlors, I will always hold the city’s chili close to my heart.  Now, there are canned versions in local supermarkets, but I think we can do better.   You can check out the recipe from

By the way, I heard a co-worker mention that we should do other types of office cook offs in the future - like a mac and cheese cook off.  But aren’t the ingredients in mac and cheese just macaroni and cheese? I guess it depends where you’re from. 
Have a wonderful week!


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