Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on January 15, 2016


– Safely guarded family treasurers.

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A couple of weeks ago I attended a Chili cookoff at a nearby town. For the uninformed, a “cookoff” is a cooking competition that concentrates on a particular dish, in this case, chili or “chili con carne” to be more precise, a spicy meat stew which is particularly popular in the South. There were a few dozen vendors in attendance and I took my time to sample all of them. I’ve tasted a lot of different interpretations of chili over the years, e.g., shredded beef versus ground beef, various types of chili peppers, textures, not to mention how served, such as on a bed of rice, on spaghetti, with corn bread, etc. Because of these many variations, I like to believe I have a pretty open mind when it comes to chili.

The competitors in the chili cookoff came from different backgrounds; everything from restaurants to mom and pop operations, to individuals who relished participating in such events. Usually when you go to a cookoff like this, you are likely to run across some commonality between entries. Interestingly, I didn’t find anything remotely similar between the various competitors. Although I thought when it came to chili I had seen everything, I of course didn’t as everyone seemed to have their own unique interpretation. Most had little or no spice whatsoever in it, which baffled me. Some were runny or soupy and others had more kidney beans than meat. I even found one with shrimp that could have easily passed for gumbo as opposed to chili (I think the guy was lost). There was also a vegetarian chili which I personally consider blasphemous. Regardless, each and every competitor was genuinely proud of their entry and boasted it was the best in the competition. Frankly, most of the entries could have been better used as fishing chum in the Gulf. I may not be a chili connoisseur, but this was bad and I think it would have offended everyone in the great state of Texas where chili is the official dish.

Regardless of the outcome, I discovered chili is a very personal dish and there are probably no two people who prepare it exactly the same. Even if people use prepackaged ingredients, I have found they like to add their own unique nuance to the recipe. When you ask someone to describe their version you usually get a contrived answer like, “It’s Spanish style,” or Cuban, Greek, Filipino or Ethiopian (huh?), not to mention Cincinnati-style with its “5 ways” of combining ingredients.

I have also found chili recipes are usually jealously guarded family secrets (sometimes even between family members). As to the cookoff competitors I experienced, I don’t think they have to worry about the misappropriation of any trade secret. They could paste their recipes on every telephone poll from Tampa to Fairbanks and I think it is safe to say their secrets will remain proprietary.

I guess I don’t see chili as a complicated dish. There is meat and there are spices. To me, it’s the spices that distinguishes the dish. When you are in the southwest, it’s usually a matter of red chilies versus green chilies, both have different tastes and degrees of heat. We could easily stop there but inevitably we do not as evidenced by the many different interpretations I experienced at the cookoff. But shrimp chili? Vegetarian chili? Turkey chili? Ethiopian chili? No, no, no, and Hell no. Just give me the beef and an interesting spice, two things I didn’t find at this year’s “chili cookoff.”

Originally published: November 29, 2010

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2016 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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  1. Joan Schoenling said

    Sometime, Tim, I will have to share with you my “vegetarian” chili recipe (the blasphemous type)!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A W.H. of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    This one was a hoot.

    “Most had little or no spice whatsoever in it, which baffled me.”

    Only thing I have to say here is “why bother then?”

    “Some were runny or soupy and others had more kidney beans than meat.”

    MAYBE because the price of beef has gone up? Still, WHY BOTHER?

    “I even found one with shrimp that could have easily passed for gumbo as opposed to chili (I think the guy was lost).”

    No kidding. Gumbo is good, but it’s NOT chili.

    “There was also a vegetarian chili which I personally consider blasphemous.”

    I’m with you on that one. It’s like why on earth would anyone want “Tofurkey” for Thanksgiving? FYI, we do a Burns Supper each year around the end of January (Robert Burns birthday is 25JAN). While we always have a main course, there is always “haggis” on the plate in remembrance of Robbie. One year, when we were looking over at the UK for a source of Haggis for the ceremony, I stumbled onto a place (in England, of course) that offered Elk Haggis (which I thought might prove interesting), but when I stumbled onto “vegetarian haggis” I thought, THAT’S JUST PLAIN RONG! (intentional misspelling of “wrong”)

    “I may not be a chili connoisseur, but this was bad and I think it would have offended everyone in the great state of Texas where chili is the official dish.”

    When I go visit my daughter in Great Falls MT, I drive I-25 straight up from here to Billings before getting off on the back MT roads to Great Falls. In the process, I go through a town in WY called “Chugwater.” They are “famous” for their Chugwater Chilli, and roadside signs will remind you to stop in and sample that chili. Apparently they have a chili cookoff competition each year in the town. I’ve never been to their competition, but their packaged Chugwater Chili isn’t half bad.

    “When you are in the southwest, it’s usually a matter of red chilies versus green chilies, both have different tastes and degrees of heat.”

    For years while my wife was alive, I would be the recipient of literally a bushel of green tomatoes after the first frost around here. People knew that I liked to use them to make “green chili” and would give them to me rather than throw them away. Basically, I take green tomatoes, chop them up, add green chiles, jalapenos, onion, garlic, salt, and of course ground beef. The idea isn’t to blow your head off, but to give it enough of a tang to get your attention. My daughters will put cheddar cheese on top, but I don’t feel like it’s important to me either way. So, I would end up with enough chopped green tomatoes in freezer bags to make probably 10-12 batches of green chili during the winter. My son-in-law makes “Cincinnati Chili” and serves it over spaghetti. While I like it (somewhat anyway) it more reminds me of spaghetti and meat(balls) than anything else, which is OK, but call it “spaghetti” – not “chili.”


    • Francis Dryden said

      There are 5 ways of serving Cincinnati Chili… as it is in the pot, with grated cheese over the top, with sliced green onions over the top, on a bed of spaghetti or with all of above.

      I live in Mexico and was in the store buying chill powder shortly after we moved here. I found a product that looked right but asked a lady if it was in fact chill powder and she told me that it was but that it was much stronger than NOB (North of Border). My recipe called for 3 tablespoons of chill powder and I put it in… the lady was 100% correct so that entire batch went out. I now use 1 teaspoon to achieve the same thing 3 tablespoons did NOB.

      This year is the 35th National Chili Cook-off here in Ajijic… they only open it to about 10 or 12 cooks who have qualified in other contests. Most of the cooks are Gringos as chill is not a Mexican dish (at least in this area or the others I have visited). My little red convertible is the Shriner parade lead car so I go in the parade but have never been to the actual cook-off.


  3. Tim Bryce said

    An M.B. of Wilmington, North Carolina wrote…

    “Tim, good article but the best chili does not have ground beef or beans in it. Our family recipe for Texas Red Chili is extremely tasty and uses real beef. Everything starts out in a very hot cast iron pan. Can’t tell more as it is a family recipe.”


  4. Tim Bryce said

    A D.F. of Austin, Texas wrote…

    “Yesterday there was a post asking if Wendy chili is Tex Mex style. Wendy chili is delicious but has beans, watery sauce, ground beef. None of those are a part of the Tex Mex specification for chili. Years ago I made a vegetarian chili with shredded zucchini. Also delicious but that one, as with you, was too different from my personal view of chili to count as chili. We went to a place near Chicago burbs that boasted “World Famous Chili”. Water, ground beef, tomatoes, onions, a dash of salt. No peppers. Not bad as a beef tomato soup but we laughed and enjoyed the other servings of the meal. Chili is good over all sorts of starches. Try Fritos!”


  5. That was an entertaining piece, Tim. Vegetarian chili? Chili IS a vegetable & it’s the meat that makes it work. Call it what you want and, in its own way, it may be okay, but ‘chili’ it’s not. Guess I’d have to ask the same question as with ‘Caffeine-free Diet Coke:’ What’s the point?!?

    Close on the heels of our move from Ohio to Colorado in 1980 came an introduction to “Chili culture.” When you’re talking the American Southwest, there’s definitely a ‘green vs. red’ debate that is both hot (pun intended) and ongoing. New Mexico, of course, is world famous for their green chili (Hatch, being the capital).

    I’ve made red (my recipe a Lone Star Texas Red with Lone Star beer…gotta love ANY recipe that begins with “First, open a can of beer”) and I’ve made green (which, frankly, I’d never eaten before at least visiting out here), and now consider myself a completely naturalized citizen of the Republic of Chili.

    Ingredients? In red, no beans…EVER (Note: NEVER hand a Texan a bowl of ‘red’ containing beans, unless your wardrobe or hairstyle would be enhanced by the addition), although beans, chopped onion and even cheese are okay as voluntary accompaniments; some purists would say preferably no cooked-in onion, tomato or even garlic either; and NEVER ground meat…beef, elk, rattlesnake…whatever. Diced! In green, nice recognizable pieces (chopped) of the chili itself; pork is the classic (although chicken is good too); and, again, ground meat ist verboten.

    Out here, the word ‘smothered’ appears on many menu items and is generally accompanied by the inevitable question from your wait-person: “Red or Green?”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tim Bryce said

    A J.Y. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wrote…

    “You might like my chili. It’s won a couple of cook-offs. It has not only beef, but pork, bacon, and sausage, not to mention a dozen spices. It’s ‘manly chili’. I’ll dig out the recipe and send it along.”




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