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Holding It All Together-Chili Bowls For Chilly Nights

By Amy McCollom
I wouldn’t like living in Florida because there is never “Soup Weather” there. I like soup, especially chili. We have the perfect weather for it here in the fall. Nothing can warm you up better than a good bowl of chili for supper.

As popular and well-known as chili is, there are still many, many kinds of chili as far as taste goes. Just google chili recipes and you can find more than you have time to read. I have had lots of different kinds of chili, including white chicken chili, which was really, really good! My favorite, though, I have to say, is my own chili. I just like the way I make it. It’s not too thick, but not too thin. It’s not too spicy but not too bland. It’s good in a bowl with crackers, or poured over On The Border corn chips, sprinkled with shredded cheese, and dabbed with sour cream like luscious Tex-Mex nachos. 

Chili is always better the second day. Let it sit in the fridge overnight, giving those spices time to marry, and heat it up again for a flavor fiesta like nothing else. You can’t buy that kind of taste; it can only be found in your own batch of day-after-chili. Throw down a square of hot cornbread and you aren’t leaving the table hungry or grumpy. Now that is real comfort food!

I remember having chili a lot when I was growing up. My dad would get out the great big soup pot when my aunt and uncle and cousins all came up, and I remember him making a huge pot of chili for all of us. When we would go down to visit my cousins, my aunt would make chili at her house too, and it always fed a huge crowd. Everytime that huge pot came out, it seemed like people did too. Family, neighbors, friends, all gathered around in the kitchen, sitting, or standing with bowls of chili, laughing and talking and joking around. It brings back a lot of good memories for me, thinking about those days, and that simple soup that we all had in common. 

My dad made good chili, but when I got married, I tweaked his recipe and made it my own. Nobody else makes chili like your own. No matter how good they say it is, (maybe I’m just speaking for myself, Idk), I haven’t found anyone who can make chili that I like any better than my own. I do like that white chicken chili that I have tried at potlucks, but comparing apples to apples, and red chili to red chili, I like mine best. Do you feel the same way about your own chili? I’m guessing you do, unless you are a really bad cook.

I think when it comes to chili, maybe it’s a personal thing like a family tradition, because it’s passed down in this part of the country, like a sacred recipe. Most families take pride in their own style or “kind” of chili. We have all grown up eating chili and have gotten used to the taste of our own families style of cooking it. I guess like most foods that we grow up eating at home, there just becomes a normal way it is supposed to taste. Our way becomes the normal, so anything else will taste strange to us. 

Chili is such a staple in the lives of people around here, that I would go as far as to say, before any young couple decides to get married, they should try each other’s family’s chili to see if they can tolerate it, because they will have to endure it or somehow come up with their own version that suits the two of them forever after. Chili is that important. I bet it has even been the thing of love and wars. I bet if we knew the truth, people have been shot or maimed over pots of chili. (Hatfields, McCoys, and…you there, with the chili ladle! Pew, pew, pew!)

To be fair, there is no right or perfect way to make chili (I gritted my teeth saying that.) Just because my chili tastes great doesn’t mean that is the only or perfect way to make it. Everyone has their own tastes and way of making it. Some people like their chili loaded with onions, or green pepper, corn, rice, or even mushrooms. It’s all in how you grew up and what you are accustomed to in your chili.

The important thing to remember about chili is if you are going to eat chili that someone else made, it could be something totally unexpected. Just like if you asked me and ten other people to draw a picture of a horse, not a single one of them would look the same. Our skill level and interpretation of drawing a horse varies, just like people have varying skill levels and interpretation of what a good chili is supposed to be. 

So I said all of that to say this: Chili is good, and sometimes it’s very good, and sometimes it looks and tastes more like something else but is still called chili, and that’s ok I guess. Chili, such a simple soup with a big history that has always been a part of our lives, keeping us warm and connecting us from one fall to the next. Nothing brings a family closer together than a big pot of soup on a cold night. Now, go make yourself some chili, and maybe some memories too.

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