When cold weather descends upon the state, Hoosiers say, “This would be a good night for chili soup.” Hoosiers eat chili soup, a hearty one-dish meal that hits spots they didn’t even know they had. People from other states also eat chili soup but it looks different although it may taste somewhat the same. Then there are those from other states who eat chili, no soup involved. They are different. They are not from around here.
There are many variations on Hoosier chili soup but these ingredients are fairly typical: a pound or two of hamburger, onions, tomato juice, canned tomatoes, chili beans, spaghetti and chili powder. To prepare this sumptuous, mouth watering, tongue tingling repast, brown the hamburger and onions, drain excess grease, add tomatoes, juice, beans, cooked spaghetti and chili powder. Simmer until flavor permeates the soup. This chili soup is eaten with soda crackers with the beverage of choice - milk. Chili powder is provided as a side to be added to meet the taste of the consumer. Some Hoosier gourmands (like me) add peach slices to the soup as a piece de resistance.
Years ago, Winterlein, an Indiana company sold a chili block. It was about the size of a short brick. The lower three fourths of the block was dark brown or black and included all of the spices, seasonings and who knows what else. The upper fourth was a tan or caramel color and it was nothing but grease. Many cooks put about half of a block into a pot of chili soup for flavoring. It was tasty but most unhealthy.
In 2009 some Hoosiers, who make concessions to age and health use chicken or turkey instead of hamburger and call it white meat chili. Ugh! Chili soup lovers across the state shudder at that thought like a 1958 Dodge pickup transmission shifting from first to second. Some use macaroni instead of spaghetti. Ugier! Or white beans. Ughiest!
People from other states also eat chili soup but do not include all of the right ingredients. Some omit the spaghetti which is alright but it should not be called chili soup. Others omit the beans and spaghetti. Hoosiers have several issues with that concoction that outlanders call chili soup. It might sort of look like soup it may smell like it and it may have a similar taste but it can not, should not, could not be called chili soup. The constitution protects our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on a cold night by eating properly prepared chili soup.
And then there are those who eat chili – no soup is involved. They are usually from other countries like Texas. They use beef and pork; no hamburger for them. And they do not add beans or spaghetti because they think that is not chili. Perhaps they are right because they do not call it chili soup. A favorite sport in Texas and other countries is to have chili cooking contests [cook-offs] involving mountainous amounts of hot peppers, cayenne pepper, habanera peppers and jalapenos. They have several levels of chili to indicate how hot it is. At the lowest level is the Shirley Temple Chili for the timid and uninitiated eaters like Hoosiers. The recipe calls for about half meat and half chili peppers. At each succeeding level the ratio of meat to peppers decreases so that at the highest level the chili is almost all peppers. Camp Fire Chili is for those who like their chili hot but not so hot that it burns tissue. Round up chili is so hot it is used to brand longhorn bulls and treat sunburn. Payday Chili is so hot that grown men sweat so prodigiously that their hats slide down over their ears and they can’t see to drive. Saturday Night Special Chili is so hot that wooden spoons used to stir it burst into flames. Those who eat more than one bite will be unable to taste anything for at least a week because all of their taste buds explode and two layers of skin from their tongues burn away like sagebrush in a forest fire. Then there is the coup de grace, Caldera Chili that is so hot it resembles lava shooting up from Kilauea in Hawaii. When exposed to the skin it brings blisters in seconds. Belt buckles covering caldera laden stomachs have been known to melt. Texans who have eaten caldera for a number of years do not need to be embalmed. A cowboy dropped his spoon on his thigh while eating caldera and he lost all feeling in that leg for two weeks. He had to go to rehab to regain the use of his leg. The pans used to prepare that chili and the dishes used to serve it are made of that material on the outside of the space shuttle to protect it from the heat of reentry to our atmosphere. That is not chili soup. It is magma from the bowels of mother earth.