Friday, January 16, 2009
Joltin' Django ♥ Cincinnati Chili
When it's cold outside, tain't a better thing in the world to eat than a big plate of Cincinatti-style chili. Please to enjoy this A Man's Gotta Eat post from last January:
I was 12-years-old the first time I went to Cincinnati. A kid who played on my baseball team that year was from Ohio, and he and his father were huge Reds fans.
One sunny summer day, my friend, his dad and I drove to Cincinnati to take in an under-the-lights Reds-Cardinals game. We stayed at a hotel near the stadium that night, and we started our journey back to Nashville at noon the following day.
Before leaving Cincinnati, however, my friend's dad insisted that we stop at Skyline Chili. Neither my mother or my father were big chili fans (I don't remember my mother ever making chili when I was growing up), and I'd sort of adopted their indifference to the stuff. I don't remember exactly what I ordered, but I know it wasn't chili.
I remember when my friend's dad's chili arrived. It did not resemble any chili I'd ever seen. First of all, it wasn't in a bowl, which was how I'd always seen chili served. And it wasn't just chili on the plate. It was spaghetti noodles and chili and cheese and beans and chopped onions. I was intrigued, to say the least.
My friend's dad asked if I'd like to try his chili. Since what he was eating looked more like a plate of my mother's spaghetti than any chili I'd ever encountered, I probably said, "Yes, please" (I was full o' manners when I was a young boy), and boy was I glad I did.
The first thing you notice about Cincinnati chili is its slightly sweet taste. That's 'cause it is made with cinnamon, cocoa and paprika (Texas-style chili it ain't). I know the sweet taste is what I enjoyed most about my first few bites of Cincinnati chili. I'm sure others feel the same way.
My two traveling companions and I made two more trips to Cincinnati that summer. We saw the Braves play during one of those trips; I don't remember who the Reds played during the other. What I do remember is this: I just begged my friend's dad to take us back to Skyline each time, which he did. I suspect he would've taken us there whether I'd lobbied for the trip or not.
Since those first three trips to Skyline during the summer of my 12th year, I've been a confirmed fan of Cincinnati chili. I've been to Cincinnati a couple-dozen times over the years for business and pleasure, and I've always - and I mean always - go to one of the myriad chili parlors that serve the fine citizens of the Queen City (Skyline, Gold Star, Empress, Dixie Chili, etc.).
Now, if you don't want to drive all the way to Cincinnati to try this unique American dish, you can drive to your nearest Kroger grocery store and get a package of Cincinnati Recipe Chili Mix. (Kroger is the only grocery store in which you're likely to find the stuff, which makes sense considering Kroger is headquartered in Cincinnati.) I've made Cincinnati chili from scratch, but it didn't taste as much like the real thing as the chili I've made with Cincinnati Recipe's mix.
I made a big batch of chili tonight (see picture above), which I shared with a neighbor who's suffering from cancer. He eats like a bird these days, but he did have a pretty big helping of noodles and meat. I think that's a pretty good tribute, n'est-ce pas?