Who can resist a steaming bowl of chili, especially on a crisp autumn night? Like meatloaf, it's easy and inexpensive to make. All you do is throw together some basic ingredients like ground beef or sirloin, tomatoes, beans and spices, then cook it all together in a big pot. And like meatloaf, you can dress this dish up or down, adding spaghetti, veggies, bacon, maple syrup -- you name it. Since it's so easy -- and affordable -- to mix up chili in large batches, many churches and community groups host chili dinners, which has made this meal even more ubiquitous.
But chili is also a dish that stirs people's passions. The state of Texas has dubbed chili its official state food. Beans are never part of the mix there -- heaven forbid! -- and the meat (almost always beef chuck roast) is rarely ground. Cincinnati, Ohio, is also famous for its chili, which is more watery and flavored with a Middle Eastern spice blend that includes cinnamon, chocolate and allspice. It's then served over spaghetti, and may be topped with shredded cheddar cheese, raw onions and kidney beans.
There are also numerous recipes for "white" chili, which typically consists of turkey or chicken in a light broth with green chilies and Great Northern beans.