Chili became the official state dish of Texas when Governor Dolph Briscoe signed House Concurrent Resolution No. 18 (HCR 18) on May 11, 1977.
Texans continue today the tradition begun in San Antonio 140 years ago of making the best and only authentic concoction of this piquant delicacy.
Texas has been the site of the annual International Chili Cook-Off since 1967 and is the home of the 1976 World Champion Chili Cooker, Albert Agnor, of Marshall
Why Is Chili the State Dish of Texas?
It started with the farkleberry.
Chili, the state dish. Dallas
Morning News file photo.
Previously published in The Daily Sentinel on Sunday, September 30, 2001
So says Ben Z. Grant, the man from Marshall who convinced colleagues in the 65th Texas Legislature that chili was the only dish worthy of representing the state in an official capacity.
Ben told how such legislation was made in an article in the East Texas Historical Journal (Spring 1998, pp. 72-73), in case you want every last detail.
The farkleberry figures in the story because Albert Agnor asked his legislator to make it the "state berry" of Texas. Agnor claimed that was the secret ingredient that made him the world's champion chili cook.
Ever attuned to the needs of constituents, Grant floated the idea with legislative colleagues, to their great amusement. What weakened his support of the farkleberry even more was remembering that "Cactus Jack" Garner earned his nickname in a vain effort to elevate the prickly pear above the bluebonnet as the official state flower.
"But chili as a prospective candidate" for the state dish was another matter, said Grant. He learned that chili con carne had been developed in San Antonio, which gave it a bona fide Texas birth.
Considering that he had history on his side, Grant got Representative Ron Bird of San Antonio to cosponsor a resolution to make chili the official state dish.
Agnor came to Austin to participate in the lobbying for the resolution by preparing a huge pot of the chili for legislators and supporters. Some of the latter wore T-shirts on which was written "Legalize Chili" to advance the cause.
Then the opposition revealed itself. Says Grant, Beaumonters and Port Arthurs demanded the designation of "state dish" for gumbo, Hispanics advanced the cause of menudo, and the black delegation favored chitterlings.. According to Grant, a Democrat, a Republican nominated chateaubriand in a fit of partisanship.
But Grant argued authoritatively for chili by invoking the support of LBJ and Senator A.M. Aiken, dean of the Texas Senate, who moved Grant's House resolution through with great urgency.
Grant traveled to Dallas to celebrate the victory in a chili parlor operated by Francis X. Tolbert, Dallas Morning News writer and chili guru. Instead of the honors he expected, Tolbert made him pay for his bowl of the new official state dish.
While still in the legislature Grant also rode a horse from Marshall to Austin to demonstrate that Texas needed to get rid of its horse-and-buggy era constitution adopted in 1876 and still in use, but that is another story.
By Archie P. McDonald
Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor of more than 20 books on Texas.
Rumored, after the 65th (1977) Texas legislature voted Chili as the State Dish, they drove to Dallas to Frank Tolbert's Chili parlour for a celebration with the authentic version. There were no beans in Frank's chili.
House Concurrent Resolution No. 18, 65th Legislature, Regular Session (1977)
Cook suet until fat is rendered. Remove suet. Sear meat in fat in 2 or 3 batches. (Use oil for low cholesterol, less grease.) Place meat in large pot with pepper pods and as much of the pepper liquid as you think you'll need to keep the meat from burning. About two inches of water rising above the meat is usually right. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Add rest of ingredients except Masa and extra Anchos. Simmer 45 minutes more, covered. Stir only occasionally. Skim off grease. Taste and adjust seasonings. If not hot enough to suit you, add extra Ancho pods which have been stemmed and seeded, but not chopped. Add Masa Harina to thicken liquid. Simmer for another 30 minutes until the meat is tender. Variation: Wick Fowler made his prize-winning chili basically the same way, but he did not use suet and added 15 oz. of tomato sauce. He never served the chili on day of its conception, but kept it in the refrigerator overnight and skimmed off the grease the next day, then added Masa Harina upon heating the chili if it was too thin.
Texas H.C.R. No. 18
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
WHEREAS, One cannot be a true son or daughter of this state without having his taste buds tingle at the thought of the treat that is real, honest-to-goodness, unadulterated Texas chili; and
WHEREAS, Texans continue today the tradition begun in San Antonio 140 years ago of making the best and only authentic concoction of this piquant delicacy; and
WHEREAS, President Lyndon B. Johnson commented that "chili concocted outside of Texas is a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing," and Will Rogers described Texas chili as "the bowl of blessedness"; and
WHEREAS, Texas has been the site of the annual International Chili Cook-Off since 1967 and is the home of the 1976 World Champion Chili Cooker, Albert Agnor, of Marshall; and
WHEREAS, It is customary for the legislature to designate certain state emblems in recognition of this state's great heritage and rich resources; and
WHEREAS, The beauty of Texas trees and flowers is represented by the pecan and bluebonnet and the mockingbird is emblematic of our abundant and varied wildlife, but the internationally esteemed cuisine of this great state had received no official recognition and has no official symbol; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the State of Texas, the Senate concurring, That the 65th Legislature in recognition of the fact that the only real "bowl of red" is that prepared by Texans, hereby proclaims chili as the "State Dish of Texas."
Chili was adopted as the official state dish by concurrent resolution and, therefore, is not listed in the Texas Statutes.