When I left the farm for college, lo’ these many decades ago, I swore I would never, ever, ever again in my life eat that farm staple: chili.
I’m cracking myself up just writing that. I mean, who doesn’t like chili?? Seriously. Area restaurants are renowned for their chili, for Pete’s sake!
My only excuse for that rash statement has to be my lack of chili comparisons. At the tender, unsophisticated age of 18, I knew nothing about chili verde (pork, tomatillos, Hatch chilies), or chili con carne (Texas red chilies, stewed beef chunks), or Springfield (IL) chilli (two “l’s, ground beef, canned tomato sauce, Tabasco). I most certainly would never have heard the words “white chili” (poultry, white beans, cheese) even whispered in our farm kitchen. And don’t get me started on the crazy idea of throwing in some pasta in the Cincinnati style. Sacrilege!
Yet there I was in a restaurant, in my late-20s, ordering chili. It was an Indiana fall day—leaves changing, temperatures dropping. A co-worker said, “You have to try their chili. It’s killer.” And it just sounded good. It arrived in a heavy bowl, topped with shredded cheese and crackers on the side. I dug in and smiled. It tasted like harvest. It tasted like home.
Since then, I’ve been a loyal taster of restaurant chili. Generally, I like the hearty, meaty, Springfield kind. My husband Jimmy makes a delicious Texas variety. I specialize in a—wait for it—very non-farm white chili. It comes together fast and explodes with comforting flavor. I always serve a side of Jiffy-mix cornbread straight from the oven, slathered in butter.
Now, I’ve kept my youthful vow of never again eating other farm foods—succotash tops the list, followed closely by ketchup-based meatloaf, liver and onions, and vegetable stew. But savvy cooks and clever recipes have changed my mind about pot roast, scalloped potatoes, pork chops and…chili. Turns out, those farm staples just needed a “tweak”!
I hope chili is high on your meal-plan list these days. If it’s not, I encourage you to scan online recipes or take a look at mine on our YouTube channel. Try something simple, something different. Make enough to invite someone over, then turn on a football game and pop open a cold beverage. You really can’t beat a bowl of fall, farm goodness.