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Chili nomenclature
Bar Harbor
Well, I've just done my one important post-turkey-day ritual -- cleaning out the chili vat. Thankfully, this has become much easier in recent years, since I discovered a device known as a "heat-cheater". It's basically a few discs of metal, with many small holes through, that you put underneath the pot. It spreads out the heat very evenly, thus preventing (or at least greatly reducing) the amount of burned-to-the-bottom residue I used to get. I've always found chili to be better the longer it cooked, so I generally let it simmer overnight. The bottom frequently used to get burnt during this process, but the heat-cheater effectively prevents that.

The chili went over well at the Buttery, but with one caveat: Marian thinks it needs a new name. She may well be right. Decades ago, this "recipe" was a very simple one called Ann's Number One Chili (since all the ingredients were one appropriate unit). But (on those rare occasions when I actually cook), I tend to be, well, experimental, and the "recipe" has mutated considerably since then. The biggest single change was probably when it got heavily cross-bred with chinese cuisine (substitute black beans for kidney beans, straw mushrooms for more western varieties, add small amounts of baby corn and bamboo shoots), but it still comes out a bit different every time, as I continue to mess with proportions. (Luckily, it almost never comes out actively *bad*, at least in the last seven years or so.) It's still based on tomatoes, beef, onion, and hot spices, but the additives make it bear little resemblance to what most people think of as chili. So, arguably, I should have something different to call it.


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Honestly - the definition of "chili" varies widely depending on where you are, and who you talk to. Some folks think it isn't chili without beans. Others think it isn't chili if it does have beans. Considering the wide variety of ingredients used (I've seen everything from carrots and sauerkraut to peanut butter and beyond) I'm not sure what the word really means anymore :)

Say that if it has chili powder and two of the standard ingredients - meat of some sort, beans, and tomatoes - you can probably just keep calling it chili.

A crock pot can also help avoid the burned-on-the-bottom effect while cooking something for hours.

Sounds like good non-chili, whatever you end up calling it.

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