In honor of National Chili Day — celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every February — dig in as we spill the beans on everything you need to know about chili con carne.
1. Its origins are contentious
“For all the emotions that it stirs up, no one is really sure how or in what form chili originated,” National Geographic reports. According to the outlet, many food historians believe that chili con carne (chili with meat) most likely originated in Texas with Mexican influences, and became popular in the 19th century.
However, our southern neighbors have gotten fired up about the rumored culinary connection in years past. An entry in the 1959 Diccionario de Mejicanismos phrasebook defined chili con carne as a “detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the U.S. from Texas to New York,” according to What’s Cooking America.
2. President Lyndon B. Johnson was a big fan
Our 36th president Lyndon B. Johnson reportedly loved chili, especially Lady Bird Johnson’s spin on the southwestern staple, the folks behind National Chili Day claim. The first lady’s recipe was called the Pedernales River Chili in ode to their Texas ranch, and the instructions are even available to view online through the LBJ Presidential Library.
When it came to eating chili, the 36th president was apparently a bit biased, believing that the best stuff came from the Lone Star State.
“Chili concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing. One of the first things I do when I get home to Texas is to have a bowl of red,” Johnson once said, according to Texas Monthly. “There is simply nothing better.”
3. Chili is the official state food of Texas
Coincidence? We think not. Chili became the official state dish of Texas in 1977, and the state legislature declared that the spicy stew deserved to be the state dish “in recognition of the fact that the only real ‘bowl of red’ is that prepared by Texans,” State Symbols USA claims.
4. Hot peppers have some amazing health benefits
When in doubt, add more hot chili peppers to your next big ol’ batch of stew. Various studies have indicated that hot peppers can fight migraines, clear sinuses, speed up metabolism and relieve arthritis, among other benefits, WebMD reports. Just don’t make it too hot — some heat-seekers have been known to suffer digestive issues from consuming too-hot peppers, with one even claiming to suffer severe headaches as a result of eating one of the world’s spiciest.
5. There are only two major American fast-food chains that serve it
Step right up to Wendy’s and Culver’s to get your fix at the drive-thru, as those are the only major fast-food restaurants that list chili on their permanent menus (not counting restaurants that serve chili dogs or chili fries).