A book about food? Sold. A book about chili? TAKE MY METAPHORICAL MONEY! No seriously, I love chili. I'll eat just about every kind- except hot. I'm not a fan of the super spicy. I make a mean chicken taco chili in the crockpot, which I'm sure would be a cardinal sin if I mentioned it around chili connoiseurs and would shunned to the dephts of chili hell.
"First , there is a need to establish an important distinction: chiles are the peppers; chili is the dish we eat." Thus begins Alter's narrative about Texans' favorite food. The writing is well-researched and informative, taking you from the origins of chili to how it became the official meal of the great state of Texas. It passes through its history with ease, and doesn't dwell when it shouldn't. Marked with photographs relevant to the book, it helps the reader understand the scale of importance that chili has had throughout history and today.
Alter talks about a store called Pendery's World of Chiles and Spices in Fort Worth; a haven for fanatics. There are spices galore, but they all aren't just for chili. There's jalapeno salt, bags of lemongrass, and different varieties of peppercorn. There is also a large selection of books. But I'm not plugging that last part for the book lover in me. Okay. Maybe I am. MORE BOOKS ABOUT FOOD, PLEASE!
Chili cook-offs are a way of life in Texas. They're up there with BBQ cook-offs. Apparently, people take their cook-offs so seriously, that there are three factions: the Tolbert-Fowler Original Chili Championship, CASI (Chili Appreciation Society International), and ICS (International Chili Society) . CASI and ICS are more national, and nowhere close to being Texas-centric.
There is an entire chapter devoted to recipes, which include Lady Bird Johnson's famous Pedernales Chili. I fully intend on trying as many as possible. I remember hearing about Lady Bird's chili while I was on the tour of the LBJ ranch, and I always wondered how she made her chili.
While a short, quick read, Alter does a great job explaining why and how Texas is in fact, chili country.