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Chili Is a State of Mind

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Chili con carne, a bowl of red, Texas style.

What is chili? It all depends on whom you ask. And where. Most would agree it's a stew seasoned with chili powder, but the common ground stops there. Geography plays a key factor in the answer you'll get. In Texas it's a meat stew with chili powder. In the Mid-West and elsewhere, beans are added while the heat has been turned down. In Cincinnati, except a milder blend with cinnamon and chocolate added to the pot. Vegetarians often use beans and tomatoes to fill the stew, while some opt for a blend of chicken, white beans, onion and garlic with green chiles. "Whatever one's orientation or preference as it relates to chili, this special dish, in its many forms and in so many ways, has become part and parcel of the culture of North America, some would even say the world," writes W.C. Jameson in "The Ultimate Chili Cookbook. " (I would disagree, at least as far as Germany is concerned. Chili remains a mystery there. I once shared a bowl there with numerous friends and family who had never tasted it before. To me, there was no discernible heat in the bowl, yet all of the others who tasted it complained it was too hot.) The spelling of the dish sometimes gets a little messier than a chili stain on a white linen napkin. But Jameson clarifies the matter: "Chile, with an 'e' at the end instead of an 'i,' refers to peppers from the capsaicin family. 'Chile' is synonymous with chile pepper, whether red or green. Chile peppers, of course, are a principle ingredient in chili."

Serve your Cincinnati chili however you want it.

So, let's get cooking. We present three variations on chili. One from culinarians Ron Bechtol and Cynthia Guido Williams is an old-fashioned favorite that tastes like the bowls of red one used to find from the Chili Queens in San Antonio's marketplaces.(Click here.) A second recipe comes from chef Scott Cohen, who's chili take is from the heart. The award-winning recipe played a savory role in the early days of his romance with his wife, Jamie. (Click here.) Last is Cincinnati-style chili, which is made and seasoned very differently from any other chili you may have tried. This unorthodox is made with boiled beef and is seasoned with cinnamon. But once you acquire the last for it, you'll include it in your rotation for the rest of your life. (Click here.)
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