Where Did Chili Come From?
Where chili originated is unclear, but there are a few different theories.
Food historians agree that chili con carne is American but has Mexican roots, though Mexicans generally say they had nothing to do with the invention of chili.
One legend says that a Spanish nun in the early 1600s named Sister Mary Agreda had out-of-body experiences in which her spirit traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and preached Christianity to the natives in what is now western Texas. During one of these experiences, she supposedly got a recipe for chili from the people there.
Another story about chili says that the recipe came from the Canary Islands in the 1720s, when these immigrants came to San Antonio, Texas, bringing with them a recipe that mixed peppers and onions with meat.
But the first written description of chili comes from a man named J.C. Clopper, who lived near Houston, Texas. In 1828, he wrote about a visit to San Antonio and included a description of a sort of hash made with stewed peppers and meat. He didn’t use the word “chili,” but what he wrote sounded a lot like it.
Chili started to become popular in the 1880s when a market in San Antonio set up chili stands where women sold “bowls o’ red” for 10 cents. As its fame spread, chili soon became a reason for people to visit San Antonio, and by the 1920s, chili had spread all over the country.