Everyone has a very individual idea of what constitutes the perfect bowl of chili. For some people, it’s got to have beans, while “bean” is a fighting word to other Texas cooks. Chili is so ingrained in Texas cuisine that even vegans find ways to make a satisfying bowl of chili.
While chili makers may not be able to agree on what makes the perfect bowl, there’s widespread agreement on the chili supper hosted every year by the Rotary Club of Galveston. For more than forty years, Galvestonians gather to eat chili, choose among homemade desserts, and help the Rotary Foundation of Galveston to support programs benefiting the community, and award scholarships to Galveston students attending college.
The 2017 chili supper is set for tonight, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. in the Ball High School cafeteria at 4115 Ave. O. Guests may eat in the cafeteria or bring containers for getting their chili to go. Tickets are $10 and include a dessert, which range from homemade favorites made from Rotarians’ family recipes to creations donated by many of the island’s best restaurants and the Galveston College culinary department.
Many of the Rotarians serving up the chili at Ball High, made from a traditional-style recipe with beans and a moderate amount of spice, have their own chili recipes for the other 364 days of the year, but put aside their personal chili styles on Nov. 8. Rotarian Gene Curry describes his recipe as “the chili of the Trans-Pecos.”
Curry likes to serve his chili with pinto beans on the side. “Beans should have a little different flavor than chili, that’s why you don’t mix them,” Curry said. He uses cubed beef instead of ground meat, and modifies a basic chili-powder mix with chipotle peppers and spicy tomatoes to make a chili that reflects his West Texas roots.
For Robyn Bushong, chili conjures up memories of Christmas in Missouri. “It was a tradition in my family when I was growing up in St. Joseph, Mo., that we had chili every Christmas Eve,” she recalled. We always had lots of friends over Christmas Eve for fun and fellowship and to enjoy my mother’s chili.” Now that she’s in Texas, Bushong has swapped out the saltine crackers for jalapeño cornbread as an accompaniment, and modified her mother’s recipe by rinsing the browned beef to remove more of the fat.
Rev. Richard Rhodes also uses his mother’s recipe, one that came from his hometown’s signature celebration, the Circleville Pumpkin Show. “Each year the Circleville Herald publishes a pumpkin recipe section, and I am sure my late mom got the recipe from there,” Rhodes said. “It uses canned pumpkin as one of the ingredients, and pumpkin pie spice is added to the chili.”
Rotarian Stefani Balasubramanian makes a vegan chili that is a staple in her family. “It is easy to make, freezes well, and is so versatile that it can be incorporated into other dishes or stand alone as a meal,” she said. “I sometimes add different seasonal vegetables like zucchini or corn, or include a can of tomato paste. The chili is protein rich, so even meat eaters will be satiated.”
Despite the wide divergence in their chili recipes, the Rotarians all concur that the annual chili supper is an important part of their mission to benefit their community. Advance tickets are available from all Rotary Club of Galveston members, and tickets will be sold at the door at Ball High School.