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Period-Chili-art - 3/22/15


"How Period is Chili?" by HL Rycheza z Polska.


NOTE: See also the files: stews-bruets-msg, Braised-Beef-art, Guisados1-art, cinnamon-msg, spices-msg, fd-New-World-msg, peppers-msg, tomato-hist-art.





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Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



You can find more work by this author on her website at:



How Period is Chili?

by HL Rycheza z Polska


The populace enjoyed a lovely chili feed after the October Business meeting. But how does this dish relate to the cuisine of the Middle Ages? 


On the surface, chili is an unrepentant New World dish.  The bulk of its familiar ingredients are New World items. Tomatoes, chili peppers, other vegetable peppers, and beans (except fava beans) all hail from the Western Hemisphere. Onions and garlic, however, were wages to the Egyptians. Unless you are making a turkey, or guinea pig version the meat was available. (Yes, guinea pig is a New World food. The rodents owe their name to the fact they were sold for a guinea each once they reached Old World markets.)   Even our buffalo and elk have European counterparts.


That brings us down to the spices. Aside from the various powders of ground chili peppers, the rest were common.  Cumin was well known from Roman times, as was black pepper, cinnamon, basil, and oregano.


The process of a long cooked stew was commonly known even in ancient times and many examples of spicy combinations of finely chopped meats and onions and other vegetables occur in period cookbooks all over Europe, and things only get spicier as you move into Eastern and African cultures.  For an example, check out the Catalan Stew recipe from the 1529 Libre del Coch by Robert Nola, on my site:



So How Period is Chili? While the method certainly is, and many recipes that focus only on meat and spices would not be startling to Medieval Man, our common interpretation of bean, tomatoes, peppers and meat really is a new world creation. While the legend of the beautiful Sister Mary of Agreda, a Spanish nun said to preach to Southwest Indians while in a trance back in Spain, maintains that she wrote down the first recipe for chili in 1618, there is no evidence for this. More likely chili was created sometime in the mid-1800's in Texas as either trail or prison food. At any rate it was well established by the 1880's when "Chili Queens" sold chili and tortillas on the street in San Antonio.


Copyright 2010 by L.J.Henson. Snail mail address: PO Box 1091, Suquamish, WA 98392. <mhenson at telebyte.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org