How to Start Making Chili

Happy National Chili Week, y’all. I didn’t know that was a thing but then Sandra Lee keeps talking about it, so it must be for real.

Once upon a time, I knew a girl named Jen. Jen smoked Marlboros. One night she got a pack of cigs that had a little piece of paper attached to it. It was a call for entries to Marlboro’s best chili recipe contest — or whatever it was officially called. Jen didn’t even have a best chili recipe, but she went into her kitchen and just started throwing a bunch of stuff together, wrote it all down, and sent the recipe in. JEN WON THE GRAND PRIZE. She got a car and a home entertainment system and a grill and some other shit. I don’t have her recipe, but maybe it’s this one? This true story illustrates two points: 1) chili starts with pretty basic, shelf-stable ingredients that you might even have in your cupboards right now, and 2) there is no One True Chili Recipe. The next time you’re hit with an emergency chili cookoff, start with the following elements, but then just go nuts. WARNING: This is not going to create fancy, fresh ingredients, farm-to-table chili; it’ll just be delicious. Here’s where to begin:

Canned stuff:
2 cans of some sort of tomatoes (Stewed and diced are my favorite combo.)
1 can of tomato sauce OR tomato soup
1 or 2 cans of some sort of beans (Chili beans already have spices! Think about it.)

at least 2 tablespoons of cumin
at least 2 tablespoons of chili powder
dashes of cayenne pepper to taste
some garlic powder
salt and pepper

Throw it all in a crock pot and call it a day. Or, you can add some more stuff.

Use discretion when measuring, mixing and matching the following:
Crushed red peppers
Fresh garlic
orange juice
Liquid smoke
Browned ground beef
Canned chilis
Adobo sauce
Onions or shallots
Bell peppers
Instant coffee, freals
A dollop of peanut butter
Cocoa powder
Worcestershire sauce
A beef boullion cube
Shredded chicken
Ground lamb!
Red wine

What else? (Besides toppings like shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream and avocaodos and chips.)