The first chili cook-off known to modern man took place in 1967 in uninhabited Terlingua, Texas (once a thriving mercury-mining town of 5,000 people). It was a two-man cook-off between Texas chili champ Wick Fowler (a Dallas and Denton newspaper reporter) and H. Allen Smith (humorist and author), which ended in a tie.
The cook-off challenge started when H. Allen Smith wrote a story for the Holiday magazine titled Nobody Knows More About Chili Than I Do, which raised the wrath of Texas chili graduate students. The cook-off competition ended in a tie vote when the tie-breaker judge allowed someone to ram a spoonful of chili into his mouth and promptly spit it all over the referee’s foot and then he went into convulsions. He rammed a handkerchief down his throat and pronounced himself unable to go on and declared a one-year moratorium in the world championship chili cook-off.
Recipe from the book Chili Madness by Jane Butel, published by Workman Publishing, 1980.
Learn about the history and legends of Chili, Chili Con Carne.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
- 4 pounds beef sirloin or tenderloin, coarse chili grind
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- 4 cups water
- 3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons red chile peppers, ground
- 1 tablespoon oregano (preferably Mexican), dried
- 1/2 teaspoon basil, dried
- 1 tablespoon cumin seed or ground cumin
- Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
Heat the oil or butter (or a blend of the two) in a heavy 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add the meat to the pot. Break up any lumps with a fork and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is evenly browned.
Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring just to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning.