Instead of a generic story about how John and I visited Cincinnati on a trip to see his family, ate chili, and our lives were changed forever, I am going to tell you about the first time I made Cincinnati chili. It was about a month ago, and we returned home from a chilly whale watching adventure in the open waters off South Head. Even though whale watching is not an intense activity, we were both exhausted from our trip. Usually in this situation, we would pick up takeaway from a nearby restaurant, but I was grimly determined to stick with the Paleo Cincinnati chili from the weeks meal plan. Afterwards, I intended relax for the evening, enjoying the satisfaction of homemade dinner and lunch for tomorrow. John laid down on the living room rug and played with Cecilia, while I began prepping for dinner. I set out boiling the water, cooking the meat, and measuring out all of the spices. I briefly considered sampling the new brand of chili powder, before bypassing my tongue straight for the pot with a 1/4 cup Hoyts’ finest blend. I felt that chili powder is chili powder, and I continued adding ingredients to the pot.
After simmering for an hour or so, I took the first taste. The chili was quite spicy. I realized that it would be best to make Cecilia something else to eat and not risk a spicy-hand eye rub disaster. About two seconds after my first bite, the heat really kicked me; it was a deep, smokey, burning heat. I thought, “this may be the spiciest thing I have ever eaten”. John and I enjoy a bit of heat to our meals, and he has been known to order an 8/10 in Thai and Indian restaurants even after the waiter gives him the “are you sure, white boy?” look. However, we do not eat spicy foods for sport, until this fateful evening, of course.
The thing about Cincinnati chili is that, traditionally, it is served over spaghetti. The thing about spaghetti is that it leads to a nice, even coat of sauce on the lips. I think this is what took the spiciness of my accidental chili powder for cayenne pepper swap (this is what we assume happened, even though the spice package gave no indication that it was not the spice mixture commonly known as chili powder) into new realms of spicy torture. We sat through dinner with grave determination as the spaghetti noodles playfully splashed the flaming lava sauce on our numb, tingling lips. The spiciness was not the sweat-inducing type, instead our mouths felt like the entry into the burning depths of hell. No water or milk could quench these flames. Pride forced us to continue with dinner as though the pauses between each tortuous bite was to examine the contents of our fork pensively.
Needless to say, we did not eat the chili for lunch the next day as I had intended. Despite my best efforts to alleviate the guilt of such wastage, that chili headed for the trash (I barely managed a few bites). It took weeks for us to consider spicy food, and the passing of a month paired with a cold snap before we were willing to revisit the recipe.
The second attempt was thankfully much less dramatic. Although I did omit the 1 tsp of cayenne called for in the recipe because we just were not emotionally ready for it yet. I know this might be blasphemy, but I served this Paleo recipe over spaghetti twice, and have no regrets, well about the pasta anyway.