This is the time of the year when we here at Breaching the Web Industries like to take a few minutes out of our busy schedules to get excessively (perhaps even irrationally) upset over a small matter — a matter that might strike others as so miniscule, so tiny, so impossibly irrelevant, that wasting even one bit of weblog space on it is absurd.

But here at BtWI, our motto is “No matter how tall, no matter how small, we will rant at it all. We will rant in the house, we will rant with a mouse, we will rant in the rain, we will rant with all Spain.”

So consider this rant a little warning, a public service announcement if you will, that will aid you the next time you are faced with the need to nomenclate your dinner.

In the name of all that is holy, where are the BEANS?!

The defining element of chili is beans. Chili is made from beans, chili powder and additional flavorful ingredients (like tomatoes, garlic or onions) — but no meat. Chili con carne (meaning chili “with meat”) features the addition of meat to the beans. Note that this is an addition, not a substitution. “Chili con carne with meat” is a stupid thing to say and an even stupider thing to write on a menu. It’s like saying “roast beef aus jus with juice.” Furthermore, if beans are omitted from the chili, it can then be called a stew (regardless of how it is seasoned, and regardless of whether meat is part of its ingredient list) but it can no longer be called a chili.

American tastes give preference to meat over beans in soup, stew and chili-type dishes — thus, what began as a Mexican bean soup has become a thick American stew. It’s fine that Americans now prefer stew over chili. However, that doesn’t mean that stew IS chili.

I don’t care what the International Chili Society or the Chili Appreciation Society or any so-called “chili” participants say about beans — if there are not beans, it is not chili. It may be very, very good, but it’s not chili. It may even win you an award or two, but it is not chili.

So when I walk into your restaurant, and I order your chili, I’d like to see a few beans on my plate, ok? Not some sort of mutant ground meat stew with too much oil and too few seasonings. And when, in my surprise, I exclaim “Huh. There are no beans!” I don’t want to be told that the beans must be ordered separately, at additional cost. And while I may, in fact, enjoy your ground meat stew, it probably won’t satisfy me because it’s not what I had in mind when I initially looked at your menu and thought “Huh. Chili con carne with meat. Stupid name. Sounds good though.”

I advise you, dearest reader, to tread carefully when ordering chili and ask questions of your kind and attentive server to ensure that you are in fact ordering what you think you are ordering, and that you don’t fall victim to the “this stew is really chili, because we say so” juggernaut.

Posted on February 12th, 2003 by Katxena