A couple of Sundays from now, June 23 to be exact, adventure seekers in the South Bay will be wending their way to the parking lot at the Bonita post office to partake of the taste of chili. Bonita is offering to the public its annual chili cook-off, an event that has been with us for 14 years.
I would suspect that I have written about chili more than any other subject matter, and this was certainly true when the subject was about things to eat. I suppose it is due to the fact that I was introduced to the dish at a very young age and it was a staple of my diet for most of my growing up years. A city block or so from my school when I was young was a chili emporium, Dial’s Chili. On those rare occasions when the household financial standing was healthy my mother would give me the necessary funds, probably a dime or so, and I would have my lunch at Dial’s. Even at this late date I remember the Dial’s offering as something unique. I had often wondered what it was that made his chili so outstanding. Was it some secret ingredient or was it just my quickly, developing, salivary glands? I recall going to Dial’s many years later. Alas, the building was still there but Dial, along with his chili was long gone.
Also long gone is my digestive system’s ability to process chili. It was the humorist, H.Allen Smith who brought this to my attention. In a short history that he had written about chili he lamented the fact that the human digestive system was not in synchronization with our overactive taste buds hence what was outstandingly delicious when taken did not fare too well in other parts of its journey. We sort of wondered why chili could not have had the same characteristics as Brussels sprouts or one of those other green grocer offerings. Ah, it just was not meant to be.
The other day while I was preparing this piece I had a phone call from my Maryland daughter, Coni, and I explained to her that I wish I had something fresh to offer you, the reader. She suggested that I consult Google that all-knowing guru and see if there is some new chili recipe that has cropped up in recent times that is not only easily digestive but also something that could be rated as “good for you.” Google, it is true, was quite prolific. It almost outdid the Smith tome when it came to chili recipes. We go through them and quickly eliminate the ones that have an ingredient contrary to our liking. For example I unabashedly throw out any recipe that has hamburger meat, ground meat, tomatoes of any kind and beans of any sort. The meat should be cut in cubes and the other saved for some other dish.
I did, however, find one that was attractive and, after reading it and studying it, palatable and not too difficult to prepare. It is named simply, “Best Chili Recipe” and it is said that it was a Blue Ribbon winner of a $20,000 prize at a contest. The secret ingredients are a can of beer and unsweetened cocoa. It does, however, contain tomato sauce and corn meal, two items that you can throw out but add masa harina in its stead. That recipe is too long to be included in this space. I would, however, be happy to furnish it on request.
I, by the way, will be at the cook-off sitting with Julie Gay at the Bonita Museum table. I will be holding a book signing of my book, “The Morning Paper and a Cup of Coffee.” This is a compilation of about 200 columns that have appeared in the Chula Vista Star-News the past 30 years. All the proceeds from the book will be donated to the Bonita Museum. The book will sell for $15. The chili recipes,if you wish them, are free.