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January 26, 2009

Chili Con Carne on Spaghetti?

Our new president’s chili recipe (see here) reminds me that modern everyday American fare like chili and spaghetti got off to bumpy starts in the 20th century, with what look to be fuzzy ideas about how these dishes were supposed to go. These two dishes, plus chop suey, together with a few now-extinct recipes like Italian Delight, were considered foreign cooking in the 1920s and 1930s. The garbling of ingredients and ideas is amusing to us in the early 21st century, though bear in mind we are no doubt cooking up another plateful of chuckles for researchers fifty years hence.

Here is a chili recipe from 1923. It comes from St. John’s Guild Cook Book, assembled by the Ladies of St. John’s Guild of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Butte, Montana.

For chili con carne
3 pounds beef (cut small)
1 cup olive oil
1 large can tomatoes
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1-2 small red peppers
1 bay leaf
6 cloves
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 large package spaghetti

Cook the onion, garlic, peppers, seasonings, and when cooked push through a sieve and add tomatoes and meat. Then add chili powder and water. Reheat next day and add boiled spaghetti.

What is the spaghetti doing in there? Search me.

Sandy Oliver, Food Historian, Author, MF&L columnist: The Way Things Were

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