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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Story of Chili, Courtesy of MAGNOLIA

For many people, food and football go hand-in-hand, and Super Bowl Sunday is the granddaddy of all football food days. Many a football fan would agree that chili is one of those staple Super Bowl foods. You can never have too much experience using the MAGNOLIA databases, so I decided to get some practice by embarking on a little research project about chili. I love chili. As I have almost zero tolerance for spicy foods, though, my ideal bowl of chili is easy on the spice. To some people, if it isn’t spicy, it’s not chili and might as well be spaghetti sauce. After consulting some wonderful resources in MAGNOLIA, I’ve found that there are many varieties of chili, and each one is just as valid as the stuff that’ll set your mouth on fire.

The chili most people are familiar with is chili con carne (chili with meat). Sources disagree about the geographical origins of this type of chili. The New Food Lover’s Companion says that chile con carne originated in Texas, while the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia attributes the dish's origins to Mexico. The discrepancies don’t end with origins. Texans, who often refer to chile as a “bowl of red”, supposedly shun the practice of adding beans to the mixture, while beans are a requisite ingredient in many other parts of the country. Other ingredients may include beef, chili peppers, garlic, and spices, but there really is no limit to the multitude of ways there are to prepare this stuff. One issue of the Saturday Evening Post featured recipes for vegetarian chili, white-meat chicken chili, and low-carb chili. Good Housekeeping tested multiple brands of canned supermarket chili in an effort to determine the tastiest. The tested varieties included turkey chili, chili with beef and beans, and chile with beef but no beans. (Bush’s and Campbell's brands were the big winners in the contest, by the way.)

One variety that definitely wasn’t a winner for a Las Vegas woman was chile con finger. Back in 2005, Anna Ayala sued Wendy’s, claiming that she found a human finger in a bowl of chile purchased from a San Jose, California Wendy's location. It turns out that the finger belonged to a co-worker of Ayala’s husband, and Ayala planted the finger in the chili in an attempt to extort money from Wendy’s. The Wendy’s suit was the latest in a long list of lawsuits involving Ayala. According to the San Jose Mercury News, she and her children had been involved in thirteen lawsuits prior to the chili finger debacle. Once authorities discovered the truth about the finger’s origins, Ayala was charged with felony conspiracy and attempted grand theft. She was convicted and sentenced to prison.

I remember hearing about the chili finger story when it first broke, but it never crossed my mind to include it in a blog post about chili until I did some exploring on MAGNOLIA. It just goes to show that you never know what you’ll discover, or rediscover, when you begin researching a topic. You could start out reading about something as innocent as chili and end up reading about mysterious body parts showing up at your favorite burger place!

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