By Maxie Pierce from Kylie Logan’s Chili Cook-Off Mysteries
It’s Fourth of July weekend, and nothing says Americana to me as much as chili.
I know, I know . . . I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to tell me you heard that chili originated in Mexico. Or maybe you read somewhere that the original dish–hot peppers stewed with meat–was first made in southeast Asia where many of the world’s hottest peppers are grown. You can believe whatever you want. In my book, there’s nothing more American than a big bowl of steaming chili.
In fact, there’s a legend that says that back in the day, cowboys used to scatter pepper seeds along the trails they traveled because they knew that when they came back that way, pepper plants would be growing and they could harvest them and cook up a batch of chili.
If you need any more proof of just how much chili is part of the American cultural scene, you only need to look to San Antonio, Texas, where the Chili Queens sold their pots of spicy goodness at plazas all over the city.
Who were the Queens? Most were local ladies who spent their days at home cooking. Each had her own special recipe and each of them took pots of their chili to the city’s plazas in the evening. Imagine the delicious aromas that wafted in the air!
Once the Chili Queens arrived each evening, so did the crowds. The plazas filled with musicians, actors, and patrons eager to visit with neighbors and eat chili.
Some historians claim that the Chili Queen tradition started in the 1860s, but there are others who say there were Queens in San Antonio as early as the century before. What they all agree on is that the Queens and their chili were the center of San Antonio social life up until the early 1940s when some zealous (and obviously wrong-minded) politicians closed them down for sanitary reasons.
So this year, forget the burgers and hot dogs! Cook up a pot of chili and celebrate the Fourth the way it’s meant to be celebrated . . . with all the spice and dazzle that is America!