Can You Put Beans in Chili (Erm, Chile)?

We stumbled on this incredible article the other day. It covers some of the hottest peppers and how they’re measured. With plenty of references, How Does The Scoville Scale Measure The Exact Hotness Of A Pepper? is not a bad article at all.

But, we’ve covered these topics in the past. It’s not as though we learned anything new from reading it. Still, we continued, waiting (perhaps even begging) to be astounded by a discovery.

And then it happened... in the comments section.

“On behalf of the state of New Mexico and it's the most delicious product:
It's CHILE, not CHILI, for fuck's sake.
Chile is an ingredient, a fruit of a plant, a delicious and tasty delight to eat.
Chili is a stew made with beans in fucking Texas (or even worse, in Cincinnati...)”

Wow. Lahjik, the commenter, takes this very seriously, doesn’t she? There are several pending comments. Some of them tackle her concern for the etymology of the word. Some discuss geography. At least one reply points out that Texans are adamantly against beans in their stew: “Texans don't make chili with beans. They take that distinction seriously.”

We didn’t spot anyone defending Cincinnati. We’re not sure if that’s because no one likes that city or their stew with beans – or if, perhaps, those that care enough about chilies, chiles, chillies, or ajíes could not be bothered with that part of the comment. That said, we would have liked to see more people rise in defense of New Mexico as that would have proved Lahjik’s point better. (Incidentally, we’re almost positive that it’s spelled logic, not lahjik… but that’s not the point, is it?)

How to spell a small, fiery pepper is a funny discussion and one that we have had before. But, we decided to take a second look and turned to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. This resource defines chili and chile as follows:

Chili
: a small pepper with a very hot flavor
: a spicy dish made of ground beef, hot peppers or chili powder, and usually beans

Chile
country S S. America between the Andes & the Pacific; a republic ∗ Santiago area 292,257 square miles (756,946 square kilometers), pop 15,116,435

What does this tell us?

First, New Mexicans that cannot cope with chili as the accepted spelling for tasty peppers should petition for dictionaries to make an official change.

More importantly (and this point is not as obvious), no Texan stew called “Chili” or “Chile” should have beans in it. We know that because one comment reads “Same as many others here--a friend sent me an email with a Chili recipe but spelled it CHILE....spelling was wrong, but at least he didn't have BEANS in the recipe....no self-respecting Texan puts beans in chili!”


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