Chili in America


Stepping outside this morning
a crispness filled my lungs.
The birds spoke,
warning, it is time to move on.

I am sure the language
should be heeded
but I intend to hunker down.
I lack freedom to seek warmer gardens.

I will watch as the flowers disappear,
knowing they prepare a new spring.
Understanding rebirth
as time wears away the grin.

I will keep my spirits cheery
by thinking: Changes bring panic
until we wake the next day
to find all is right.

So, like the pot of chili cooking
on the stove this cool September,
I promise to keep warm
wrapped in the smells and memories.

A good pot of chili, in my estimation, starts with a base of garden-fresh tomatoes. I grow several varieties which yield a summer taste incomprehensible to any store bought canned good. I then add chilies and onions bought at the Farmer’s Market in town and generously sprinkle other spices that make the chili sing. It cooks with swooning smells throughout the house until I no longer am able to wait. The family gathers at the table, spoon in hand, ready for the feast to begin.

Chili in America travels from Texas and means many things. There is Cincinnati Chili which adds cinnamon for a sweet twist or Cowboy Chili adding beans. I prefer a smoky chili so cumin and ground chipotle makes for a nice mix of heat. The origins of chili are unknown but there are stories to be told. Mexicans do not take credit for the dish and plenty of others take the creation as their own. In Texas a bowl of red is a staple. They refer to themselves as chili heads.

Yep, chili has made its way across America as the landscape changes, from the streets of Ohio, the back woods of Wisconsin, the hills of the Plains and the shores of the coasts, chili has become an American staple.

“delectable chile-con-carne… composed of delicate meats minced with aromatic herbs and the poignant chile colorado — a compound full of singular saver and a fiery zest…” —O. Henry ‘The Enchanted Kiss’

“Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.” –Henry James

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