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

Huette von Ahrens ahrenshav at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 21 14:16:10 PDT 2011

I can't say that I know chili like the back of my hand, but I did look up "chili con carne" in the Oxford Companion to Food.  They say that the first printed recipe for this dish appears in a book printed in 1857 entitled "Chile con Carne or the Camp and Field."
Richard J. Hooker in his book, "The Book of Chowders" states that "Chili con carne may have already existed amongst poor Mexicans of San Antonio in the Mexican Province of Texas during the 1820s."  He goes on to talk about the Mexican American "chili queens" of San Antonio in the 1880s.  Another book the OCF used was John Mariani's book, "The Dictionary of American Food and Drink."
I also looked up "dafina" in the OCF and their description in Jewish Cookery does not even remotely look like "chili con carne".  The person who provided their information was Claudia Roden.


--- On Mon, 3/21/11, lilinah at earthlink.net <lilinah at earthlink.net> wrote:

From: lilinah at earthlink.net <lilinah at earthlink.net>
Subject: [Sca-cooks] History of the "stew" that is Chili
To: sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org
Date: Monday, March 21, 2011, 11:45 AM

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

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
Sca-cooks mailing list
Sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org


More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list