Chili is by far one of my favorite foods. People have a lot of opinions about chili. Some like it hot. Some like it mild. Some like it with beans. Some actually like it without beans. Some like their chili thick and hearty. Others like a soupier version. Some people use ground meats. Some use chunks of stew meat. Some people even make theirs without any meat! I always thought of chili as a Tex-Mex dish. But in doing some basic online research, there are some theories that yes, it may have originated with meat, onion and pepper combinations with Mexican roots, but it may also have originated in Moroccan cuisine or Native American cuisine. Wherever it originated, I’m just grateful it spread across this continent.
How you eat your chili is also a topic that can be debated wildly and sometimes virulently. I personally love eating my chili on top of oyster crackers and covered in cheddar cheese. Sometimes I like to add fresh diced onions. Growing up, I ate a variation of this with saltine crackers crumbled in a bowl. But there are many ways to eat it. I’ve heard some people just eat it without adding any type of crackers or chips. When I was in high school, I loved getting Frito chili pie for lunch. This is Fritos topped with chili and, at least at my school, covered in that gross nacho cheese sauce you find at high school football games and movie theaters. This is definitely not healthy, but it was delicious.
Some people even put chili on pasta. There’s this very odd dish called Cincinnati chili, or I’ve seen it called “Chili x-ways,” where the x denotes how much crap you’re adding to the dish. For instance, if you want just chili on pasta, that’s 2-way. If you add cheese, 3-way. You get the point. I knew someone once who went so far as to add pineapple on top. This is an atrocity in my view, but I also don’t put pineapple on my pizza.
Frankly, if you’re going to put chili on anything, a hot dog is the best option. However, that dish still leaves room for debate. Here, you get into the beans vs no beans argument. I had never even heard this argument until I moved to Chicago, but apparently, a lot of people serve a beanless chili on their chili dogs. I personally love beans on my chili dog. Also, this is the time to really pile on those diced onions.
And while Taco Bell removed it from their menu, I still think a chili cheese burrito is pure heaven. I make these at home if I have leftover chili and tortillas on hand. Mine are never quite as deliciously sinful as the Bell, but they are still a little bit of joy. And chili cheese dip! Chili cheese dip, made famous I guess by Chili’s, is delicious and damn it, it could count as a meal. If you do it right, it has all the food groups once you dip a chip in.
I guess I’ve rambled on about chili with no real point except that I love it, and it is a very versatile dish.