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

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Mon Mar 21 12:15:38 PDT 2011

Chili is actually a Native American meat sauce which is place on top of 
vegetables, such as beans, that have been cooked seperately.  Hearthy when 
times are good and a means of stretching the meat when the hunting is poor. 
It's consideration as a "stew" and the use of hamburger rather than small 
chunks of meat are later developements.  To my knowledge, chili's 
antecedents are purely North American.

Apocryphally, Saint Mary of Agreda describes the making of chili in her 
writings and George Herter published a recipe for Chili con Carne Mary of 
Agreda (which is excellent), but I tend to discount the whole thing 
considering the extremely mystic nature of her sainthood.  Besides, she's 
first half og the 17th Century.


> 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 Jewish
> [http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Andalusian/andalusian2.htm#Heading116]
> 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 carbs.
> So, is there a chili equivalent early on, before New World beans made it 
> to northern and eastern Europe?
> -- 
> Ellen
> on the cusp of Oakland-Emeryville-Berkeley

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