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Chili's hot

Spicy or mild, chili is a longtime favorite food

Spicy or mild, chili is a longtime favorite food

September 22, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Tom Roberston likes his chili hot. His wife's taste runs more on the mild side. The Robertsons' prizewinning chili satisfies both sides of the spicy spectrum.

Chili cook-off beginners Tom and Barb Robertson of Warfordsburg, Pa., won second place in the chili contest at the 2004 Hancock Winter Festival with a chili recipe they inherited from a friend and modified during years of cooking the concoction together. The easy-to-make, thick chili with the distinctive flavor tastes hot at first bite, but the burn quickly subsides, Barb Robertson said.

"That's the most wonderful thing about this chili. It's remarkable," she said. "This one makes us both happy. And I've never met anybody who didn't like it."

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The Robertsons sometimes add whole kernel corn to their chili to create "chili corn carne," and the couple often serves the dish with homemade cornbread.

The versatility of chili has long made the food a favorite in the United States and beyond. The mixture of meat, beans, peppers and herbs was known to the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans long before Columbus and the conquistadors arrived, according to the California-based International Chili Society - a nonprofit organization that sanctions chili cook-offs with judging and cooking rules and regulations - at www.chilicookoff.com on the Web.

Chili peppers were used in Miguel de Cervantes' Spain, and appeared in the ancient cuisines of China, India, Indonesia, Italy, the Caribbean, France and the Arab states. Don Juan de Onate in 1598 brought green chili peppers to the area now known as New Mexico, according to the International Chili Society.

Chili's lengthy history in the United States has earned the spicy concoction the right to be named the nation's national food, according to the nonprofit Chili Appreciation Society International at www.chili.org on the Web. The organization, which hosts an annual chili cook-off at Coolfont Resort and Spa in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., is lobbying to gain chili this recognition.

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