Editor’s Note: Legends of the Fall, With Chili

Fall is usually associated with loss and sadness in creation myths from various cultures. In Greek myth, Persephone’s six-month descent into Hades causes the end of summer. In Native American myths, it is the blood of a great bear that drips onto the leaves that makes them turn colors.

My own fall myth is less about melancholy and more about chili. I can’t wait to fall into that first bowl of autumnal chili — with plenty of kidney and pinto beans, thank you very much you Texas chili weirdoes.

Forget about all those other tastes we associate with autumn — apple pie, cinnamon, cider, pumpkin and pigskin. They’re all fine, but chili really sums up the best of autumn for me.

All summer long I ate light, not to lose unnecessary bulk (it’s not unnecessary; I need that bulk for winter) but because that’s how I feel like eating when I’m dripping sweat all over the place. Pass the Rye Krisp and steamed baby bok choy, please.

I don’t mind eating that way when I’m swimming in my own humid sweat, but when the season changes to fall, it’s time for a big bowl of chili. I can do meat or vegetarian, but I can’t do white chicken chili (that’s a soup or stew or something else, not chili — just like chicken pizza is not pizza). Throw in all the veggies you want. Noodles? That’s chili mac, not chili (but I do like Smilin’ Bob’s noodle chili at Bayside Tavern in Fish Creek).

During those horrible humid dog days of summer, I start thinking about making that first steaming pot of chili, with a pan of jalapeño cornbread on the side. Let the chili slow cook all day to develop deep flavors. Dish it up in a big bowl, get comfortable and watch a classic autumn movie — The Trouble With Harry or The Exorcist or Halloween.

That’s living large in my autumnal world.

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