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The Bloody San Antonio Origins of Chili Con Carne

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  • The Bloody San Antonio Origins of Chili Con Carne

    The Bloody San Antonio Origins of Chili Con Carne

    The original Tex-Mex staple dates back further than most historians realize.

    https://www.texasmonthly.com/food/bl...ili-con-carne/
    How much do we really know about the history of chili con carne? Once considered outrageously exotic by Anglo diners, chili has since won recognition as the dish that gave rise to Tex-Mex cuisine. Here at home, it is now so thoroughly assimilated that it has reigned for forty years as the official state dish of Texas, much to the ire of those who think it sits on a throne rightfully occupied by barbecue.

    Chili’s genesis seems nearly impossible to trace today. W.C Jameson’s Chili From the Southwest: Fixin’s, Flavors, and Folklore offers up eleven competing theories, ranging from a proto-psychedelic, hyper-Catholic, Spanish/Mexican Indian tale about a teleporting, recipe-sharing Blue Nun; to another crediting California-bound gold prospectors; to others touting the efforts of Texas prison convicts and cowboys.

    But Texas food historian Robb Walsh subscribes to the theory that the recipe originated with San Antonio’s Canary Islander population. As a bulwark against possible French expansion in Texas, the Isleños, as they were known, were encouraged to move to San Antonio with the promise of becoming hidalgos, literally “sons of something”—basically, minor Spanish nobles. In 1731, sixteen Canarian families (a total of 56 people) took up residence in the new town, joining a mixed population of clergy, soldiers, and mission Indians. Almost immediately, the Canarians became the city’s business and political elite, and also, according to Walsh, gave us chili.

    He believes that the slow-simmered mélange of meat, garlic, chile peppers, wild onions, and cumin betrays Moroccan (specifically, Berber) influences prevalent in the Canary Islands. Although cumin had been on hand in San Antonio spice cabinets before their arrival, Walsh has written that Canarian cooks were very heavy-handed with dried cumin—comino molido—the signature ingredient in what we know today as chili.

    True, indigenous Americans had been stewing North American game (venison, turkey, antelope) with native spices for centuries. In the 1730s, a wandering Swiss Jesuit, Philipp Segesser, came across a dish in southern Arizona he described as composed of roasted crushed chile peppers fried in sizzling lard with chunks of meat. In 1568’s The True History of the Conquest of New Spain, conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo wrote that luckless Spaniards who fell into Aztec hands were butchered and stewed in pots along with tomatoes and chile peppers.


    Chili Queens surrounded by customers at their stand at Haymarket Plaza in San Antonio, Texas in January 1933.

    https://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-cont...-c-default.jpg

  • #2
    The big question, which can lead to heated debates, is beans or no beans?

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    • #3
      Is this another angle of the cultural appropriation debate?

      I find the whole thing a bit......hypocritical. I mean, if you claim to be a melting pot of cultures/ethnicities, it is only natural some people will adopt whatever they like from another culture and well...... eat or wear it. Isn't that the result of a melting pot that is succeeding rather than appropriation out of "malicious" intent?

      Personally, i have very few rules of my own to abide in life and one of them is........i don't inquire into the origins of food, music or women, if it's good it's good and that's the end of story.

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      • #4
        Conquistador con carrne

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Shiftycent View Post
          Is this another angle of the cultural appropriation debate?

          I find the whole thing a bit......hypocritical. I mean, if you claim to be a melting pot of cultures/ethnicities, it is only natural some people will adopt whatever they like from another culture and well...... eat or wear it. Isn't that the result of a melting pot that is succeeding rather than appropriation out of "malicious" intent?

          Personally, i have very few rules of my own to abide in life and one of them is........i don't inquire into the origins of food, music or women, if it's good it's good and that's the end of story.
          i think shiftycent is on the right track......Tex-Mex food, chili, tortillas, enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, burritos, nachos, guacamole, frozen margaritas, is all great food, but so are the Cajun foods which are blended French Canadian, Spanish and Louisiana/ African, such as Jambalaya, Etouffee, gumbo, crayrish, boudin, and hush puppies.
          It varies across the US from the crabs of Maryland, to Philly cheesesteak sandwichs and new York style pizza. It is a big blend of cultures and everyone brings their cultural best foods and music to the party.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Shiftycent View Post
            Is this another angle of the cultural appropriation debate?

            No, it's nothing to do with that. Stop winding yourself up over nothing.

            This is an article about food history, which is a legitimate and important form of historical research. Go read the article and educate yourself.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Te Zorro View Post


              No, it's nothing to do with that. Stop winding yourself up over nothing.

              This is an article about food history, which is a legitimate and important form of historical research. Go read the article and educate yourself.

              Comment


              • #8
                As I have always said....... "If it tastes good, it doesnt count as canibalism"

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                • #9
                  Traces of Texas
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                  The Texas quote of the day is a fascinating description of traditional south Texas ranch cooking:

                  "We had a cook named Gustavo at the ranch house. My mother-in-law trained him. He could make pot roast, biscuits, bacon and eggs, all done American-style. Our carne guisada [stewed meat] was made with sirloin. Gustavo served us from a silver tray. The cowboys followed older traditions.

                  The vaquero [cowboy] families, they killed a steer once a month and made dried meat, carne seca, and cecinas [cured beef] from it. And then they made chicarrones from the fat. There was also menudo and barbaco on the day they killed la vaca.

                  We had a lot of different cocineros [cooks] for the vaqueros. During roundup we needed a great cook. One of the early ones was named Lencho Castro. He introduced four tortillas instead of pan campo. They were huge flour tortillas, and the cowboys all loved them.

                  Then I remember there was one concinero named Tino Palau, who wore a white apron. He was very clean and very neurotic. He made the cowboys wash their hands before they ate. They thought he was crazy.

                  Every morning there was coffee de olla [fancy coffee with added flavorings] in a big blue pot, sweetened with piloncillo [brown sugar]. The cowboys like to cook their own eggs. Some would simmer them in the coffee.

                  Lunch was fideo [noodles] or conchitas [small pasta shells] or some other kind of macaroni. The cook would brown some beef in tallow or lard, add the pasta and some onions. In a molcajete, he would grind tomato and garlic and add that, too. He would also add serrano chiles, unless we had some chile pequins. And he used the Mexican oregano, which grew wild down by the river.

                  When the beef ran low, they would make pasta with chorizo [sausage]. Most of the time, they ate fideo mixed with beef. They never ate steaks ----- never really ate any meat by itself. In the evenings, they had potatoes ---- papitas and chorizo or papitas and carne [meat]. Sometimes they ate frijoles [beans] and hueveos [eggs] mixed together. They always ate with a spoon.

                  For a special treat they had a corn bread batter spooned into hot lard. It was kind of like a hush puppy, but it had a little beak on top, so they called them periquitos, parakeets. They sometimes cooked sweet potato or pumpkin in a syrup made from piloncillo, but that was about the only dessert. Except for pan campo with fruit in it."

                  ----- Blanca Margarita Montemayor Trevino de Laborde, as quoted in Robb Walsh's excellent cookbook "The Texas Cowboy Cookbook," 2007. By the way, all of Robb Walsh's cookbooks are exceptionally well done. Not just for the recipes but for the history that accompanies them.

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                  • #10
                    Sounds like they lived hard and fed equally well. Riding around a sea of steaks and sausages. Bet they would spit out a Big mac.
                    Was reading what some ancestors ate on the sailing ship for Christmas. Everything including the Turkey on the Southern Indian Ocean.. and cakes and plum pudding from a tin saved for the occasion .This was 1830s

                    Tallow or lard is good and not a trans fat.
                    If you are stewing lean wild game use tallow I reckon. And it keeps really well. Don't need to refrigerate it like butter.

                    Vegetable or trans fats...

                    Fortunately, unlike most dietary scares of the past 50 years, the government and the ADA appear to have got this one mostly right: trans fats are indeed toxic. According to this data (yes, it’s a prospective study and therefore contaminated by associational confounders), consuming just 2% of your calories from trans fat doubles your risk of heart disease! They’re also associated with obesity, Alzheimer’s, and infertility in women, and they may interfere with liver function. Dietary fats are either saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated. “Saturated” means that there are no double bonds in the molecular structure, and no hydrogens can be added. “Monounsaturated” means one double bond, and “polyunsaturated” means…well, more than one.
                    The interesting part is that double bonds can be cis- or trans-…basically the chemical equivalent of right- or left-handed. It turns out that fats created (or hydrogenated) by enzymes, in mammal bodies, are all cis-handed. But chemical hydrogenation creates a mixture of cis- and trans- fats that actually favors the unnatural trans- configuration 2:1. And the resulting trans- molecules have a dramatically different shape!
                    This is why trans fats wreak havoc in your body: they’re the wrong shape, and your body simply doesn’t know what to do with them. It’s like putting brake fluid in your engine oil, or antifreeze in your gasoline.
                    Vegetarians also wouldn't be getting any collagen. Something essential but never really discussed.

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                    • #11
                      "They sometimes cooked sweet potato or pumpkin in a syrup made from piloncillo, but that was about the only dessert. Except for pan campo with fruit in it."

                      Piloncillo is as minimally-processed as you can get your sugar, short of chewing it out of sugar cane yourself. It's the product of cane juice boiled down to a thick, crystalline syrup, usually poured into cone-shaped molds to harden (the name piloncillo derives from "pylon"). What you get is a sugar rife with impurities that puts plain old brown sugar to shame. Modern brown sugar is just purified white sugar with some molasses mixed in. This is the real deal.

                      https://www.seriouseats.com/2011/07/...ow-to-use.html

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                      • #12
                        Ah hijos de algos = sons of something

                        Though I speak spanish I never made this correlation with hidalgos.

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