[Sca-cooks] History of the "stew" that is Chili

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Mon Mar 21 11:45:23 PDT 2011

Anyone know the history of chili, the American dish of beans and/or 
meat, tomatoes, chili pepper, etc.? On another SCA list i am on, 
someone is claiming that it derives from Jewish adafina/dafina/tafina

The closest SCA period recipe i know of for adafina (without that 
name) is in the anonymous 13th c. cookbook where it is identified as 

A Stuffed, Buried Jewish Dish

Pound some meat cut round, and be careful that there be no bones in 
it. Put it in a pot and throw in all the spices except cumin, four 
spoonfuls of oil, two spoonfuls of penetrating rosewater, a little 
onion juice, a little water and salt, and veil it with a thick cloth. 
Put it on a moderate fire and cook it with care. Pound meat as for 
meatballs, season it and make little meatballs and throw them [p. 21, 
recto] in the pot until they are done. When everything is done, beat 
five eggs with salt, pepper, and cinnamon; make a thin layer [a flat 
omelette or egg crepe; literally "a tajine"] of this in a frying pan, 
and beat five more eggs with what will make another thin layer. Then 
take a new pot and put in a spoonful of oil and boil it a little, put 
in the bottom one of the two layers, pour the meat onto it, and cover 
with the other layer. Then beat three eggs with a little white flour, 
pepper, cinnamon, and some rosewater with the rest of the pounded 
meat, and put this over the top of the pot. Then cover it with a 
potsherd of fire  until it is browned, and be careful that it not 
burn. Then break the pot and put the whole mass on a dish, and cover 
it with "eyes" of mint, pistachios and pine-nuts, and add spices. You 
might put on this dish all that has been indicated, and leave out the 
rosewater and replace it with a spoonful of juice of cilantro pounded 
with onion, and half a spoonful of murri naqi'; put in it all that 
was put in the first, God, the Most High, willing.

Comments in [square brackets] from the translator, Charles Perry, who noted:
A version of adafina (from an Arabic word meaning "buried treasure," 
related to the word madfun, "buried," which is found in the name of 
this dish), the Sephardic equivalent of the Ashkenazi dish cholent, 
which could be left in the oven overnight on Friday so that Jewish 
housewives wouldn't have to violate the Sabbath by cooking.


Nothing like chili (surprise, surprise) and not much like modern 
adafina (North African) recipes i know or variations called 
Hameen/Chamin (Middle Eastern) and Cholent (Ashkenazi, north eastern 
Europe), depending on region. Each of the three dishes is basically a 
hearty filling stew, prepped on Friday before Shabbat starts at 
sundown. Since a fire cannot be kindled on Shabbat, and food cannot 
be cooked during Shabbat in the usual ways, this dish was 
traditionally put in a baker's oven and cooked slowly in the residual 
heat and eaten on Saturday for lunch. (Shabbat ends Saturday at 
sundown, when the new day starts, according to the Jewish calendar). 
Nowadays, some people use crock pots with timers.

Most of the modern adafina recipes i turned up include rice, onions, 
meat, and spices (no beans); sometimes dried fruit; sometimes those 
eggs slow cooked overnight in their shells.

The Hameen/Chamin recipes also used rice, no beans.

Ashkenazi Cholent recipes i found often included(New World) beans, 
along with meat and onions, although some used potato, others used 
barley, and yet others included two or all three of those filling 

So, is there a chili equivalent early on, before New World beans made 
it to northern and eastern Europe?

on the cusp of Oakland-Emeryville-Berkeley

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