The 2018 Henniker Rotary Chili Fest is Sunday, August 18, 2019

Chili Facts & Fiction

Bowl of Chili
From the time the second person on earth mixed some chile peppers with meat and cooked them, the great chili debate was on; more of a war, in fact. The desire to brew up the best bowl of chili in the world is exactly that old.

Perhaps it is the effect of Capisicum spices upon man's mind; for, in the immortal words of Joe DeFrates, the only man ever to win the National and the World Chili Championships, "Chili powder makes you crazy." That may say it all. To keep things straight, chile refers to the pepper pod, and chili to the concoction. The e and the i of it all.

The great debate, it seems, is not limited to whose chili is best. Even more heated is the argument over where the first bowl was made; and by whom. Estimates range from "somewhere west of Laramie," in the early nineteenth century - being a product of a Texas trail drive - to a grisly tale of enraged Aztecs, who cut up invading Spanish conquistadors, seasoned chunks of them with a passel of chile peppers, and ate them.

Travels through Texas, New Mexico, and California, and even Mexico, over the years have failed to turn up the elusive "best bowl of chili." Every state lays claim to the title, and certainly no Texan worth his comino (cumin) would think, even for a moment, that it rests anywhere else but in the Lone Star State - and probably right in his own blackened and battered chili pot.

There may not be an answer. There are, however, certain facts that one cannot overlook. The mixture of meat, beans, peppers, and herbs was known to the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayan Indians long before Columbus and the conquistadores.

  • Fact: Chile peppers were used in Cervantes's Spain and show up in great ancient cuisines of China, India, Indonesia, Italy, the Caribbean, France, and the Arab states.

  • Fact: Don Juan de Onate entered what is now New Mexico in 1598 and brought with him the green chile pepper. It has grown there for the nearly four hundred years since.

  • Fact: Canary Islanders, transplanted in San Antonio as early as 1723, used local peppers, wild onions, garlic, and other spices to concoct pungent meat dishes - improvising upon ones they had cooked for generations in their native land, where the chile pepper also grew.
There is little doubt that cattle drivers and trail hands did more to popularize the dish throughout the Southwest than anybody else, and there is a tale heard one frosty night in a Texican bar in Marfa, Texas, about a range cook who made chili along all the great cattle trails of Texas. He collected wild oregano, chile peppers, wild garlic, and onions and mixed it all with the fresh-killed beef or buffalo - or jackrabbit, armadillo, rattlesnake, or whatever he had at hand - and the cowhands ate it like ambrosia. And to make sure he had an ample supply of native spices wherever he went, he planted gardens along the paths of the cattle drives - mostly in patches of mesquite - to protect them from the hooves of the marauding cattle. The next time the drive went by there, he found his garden and harvested the crop, hanging the peppers and onions and oregano to dry on the side of the chuck wagon. The cook blazed a trail across Texas with tiny, spicy gardens.

From International Chili Society

Mark Sunday, August 18th, 2019 on your calendars and prepare to join your neighbors and friends in this annual family friendly event at Pats Peak Ski Area, 686 Flanders Road, Henniker, NH

Proceeds from the annual Chili Fest support local, national and international projects sponsored by the Henniker Rotary Club and Rotary International.