You know how my husband’s from Texas?
You know what Texans take really, really seriously (besides football)?
It’s their official state dish, and as such, they have Very Strong Feelings And Opinions about it.
Now, growing up, I was the pickiest eater ever (literally ever) and never ate chili. But I knew what it was — this stew/soup with meat and tomatoes and beans and topped with cheese and stuff. People especially liked it when it was cold out. (When I was really little, I thought there was some correlation between the name “chili” and chilly days.)
Then I grew up and started eating almost anything, then I started dating this guy, and then he studied in Washington, D.C. for the year. During that time, I found a recipe for chili and decided to make it for dinner. I don’t know where that recipe is, but it called for ground turkey, black beans, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, broth, and spices and stuff. Healthy and filling and delicious.
While I was making that dish, I spoke to my husband (then boyfriend) on the phone and mentioned I was making “turkey and black bean chili” for dinner.
“That’s not chili,” he said, cutting me off.
“I – what? It’s called chili, that’s what the recipe says.”
“No. Real chili doesn’t have beans.”
I was truly flabbergasted. I knew turkey was a “healthy swap” from traditional chili ingredients, but what was wrong with including beans? They were a perfectly normal chili ingredient, weren’t that?
Apparently my California culinary upbringing had misinformed me.
Real chili, my husband insists, is Texas chili. And Texas chili is “chili con carne,” and can only include meat (and it really should be red meat, not ground poultry), tomatoes, and onions. And spices like garlic powder and cayenne pepper and stuff. Toppings like cheese and sour cream are acceptable. But nothing else or you are defaming the very state of Texas with this insulting imitation of a dish.
I’m not exaggerating even the slightest bit. (Don’t even get him started on Cincinnati chili.)
I, obviously, think my husband is ridiculous.
To me, that’s like saying that pepperoni pizza is the only real kind of pizza. Or grilled cheese with Kraft American Singles is the only proper grilled cheese. Or carne asada burritos are the only burritos one should ever eat.
Luckily, my husband will still eat chili if it has other types of meat or veggies or (gasp!) beans. But he’ll insist on calling it “stew” instead of “chili.”
Creativity, variety, and diversity is, like, the best part about cooking and eating! Try different things. Try different versions of different things. Try different cooking methods. Different substitutions. Pick a favorite, sure, but stay open to trying something — even something you really love and hold dear — in a new way.
I will say that my husband’s family chili recipe (which I’m not allowed to share, sorry) is pretty damn delicious, and we make it several times throughout the winter. But also delicious is Jimmy Fallon’s crock pot chili. And this black bean and sweet potato version.