Updated: Nov 4
What do food blogs and prolate spheroids have in common, you ask? Well, my friends...
In light of the tragedy turned miracle incident that happened 1/3/23, in Cincinnati, OH during the NFL game between Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, I'm dedicating this blog to the cities' well known and in my honest opinion, best game time foods around: Cincinatti Chili and Buffalo Style Chicken Wings (discussed in part 2 at a later date).
And seeing that my six degrees of separation are at a one-- and because my hometown of McKees Rocks made the news in a better light than normal, I dedicate this blog to Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Damar Hamlin. I hope #3's recovery is swift and he's back representing The Rocks with his hard work and determination-- the same qualities this town's people are known for.
The Year of the Prolate Spheroid
I rang in the 2023 New Year on the edge of my seat wondering if Ohio State would edge out Georgia to face TCU (who earlier edged out Michigan in the semifinals) in the college National Championship. Literally. Edge of my seat. Down to the wire; a barn burner; I won't tell you what my father-in-law says about kickers who are tasked to kick to decide a football game.
Champagne was poured, Ryan Seacrest counting down, Time Square going berserk - I think- well I don't know for sure because the television stayed on the game. Georgia up by one on a last-minute TD from Georgia. Ohio State marches down the field, got within field goal range. Down to the last seconds.
Literally. OHIO State lined up on the left hash.
3-2-1.... kick is up..... and....no good.
Happy New Year!!!
Football has always been a game I've enjoyed. There is nothing more fun to me than a New Year's Day watching football.
College football is especially fun for me to watch. It's the entire pomp and circumstance of the traditions from the bands and cheerleaders to the players and alumni gathering as they've done for years. Attending WVU for college, I was privy to a whole state rallying every Saturday to cheer on The Mountaineers! In the mud of "The Pit", we drank cheap beer and contemplated why we don't have a dome, and why they don't sell beer inside that dome. (The year was 1989 when they did not sell beer at college football games. Someone was listening, well except for the dome thing)
Saturdays are now filled with Pitt games-- I've been a season ticket holder since the opening of Heinz Field. (Still and always will be called that) but it's even more fun since my friends are part of the program.
Maybe I love football because my high school team won the WPIAL Championship (The Whips for short), and I was a cheerleader-- part of the pomp and circumstance.
Could it be the 10 years of Saturday games I would have to go to after my piano lessons at Carnegie Mellon to watch my dad's friend, Jerry Mancini coach a local kid, Joe Mollica as quarterback? (small world, huh?)
Or maybe I love football from the stories of my father, a lineman at University of Pittsburgh back in the 50s or his rise to glory as a Stowe Stallion.
My girls play rugby. Yep-- rough and tumbled rugby. Rather well also. I don't have to worry about them, they tackle like women three times their sizes. They're tough cookies thanks to rugby.
My son is a lineman like my dad. It's not unlikely that if you encounter Enrico at this point in his life, he won't size you up and try to "block" against you. I can still take him. I just think because he takes it easy on his mum.
So it wasn't that unbelievable that for 3 days I watched football leading up to the NFL Monday night game January 3rd: Cincinnati Bengals hosting Buffalo Bills.
Dan likes to remind me of former Pitt Panthers who play in the NFL. It's a little boasting and fun jabs. You see we don't talk the day of The Backyard Brawl-- Me: a West Virginia Mountaineer. Him: a University of Pittsburgh Panther.
The list of Pitt Alum names I recognize is long- I've been watching them play for the last 20 years. Sometimes I have to remind him of where they're from- my hometown, McKees Rocks. (Growing up rivals from different high schools. Me: Sto Rox. He: Montour) Do you see a pattern?
It just seems fitting that this blog references football. The beginning of 2023 used football to have us reconnect as civil, loving and caring human beings. Millions of people watched with bated breath as first responders revived a lifeless body after a rather unremarkable tackle (meaning it wasn't out the ordinary). It struck home a little harder since that man was not only a human being, but he was also a Pitt Panther and a native of McKees Rocks.
Humanity is alive and well and living in all of us. The outpouring of love and support for a person we may never met, on a team we may even despise gives me hope that we all took a step back that day and realized what really matters in the world.
the food blog
I traveled to both Buffalo, passing through on our way to Canada and Cincinnati, a weekend stay for rugby with my daughter Sofia.
My experience with Cincinnati Chili
Late night options in Cincinnati are few and far between. Considering the nearly 10 car line at McDonald's drive thru, we decided to try Skyline Chili. Have you ever experienced Cincinnati chili?
Cincinnati chili is not like your regular chili. It's s a unique type of chili that's flavored with not just chili powder but lots of other spices, including cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.
It tops long spaghetti noodles and can be doctored to your liking. As the clerk asked, "how would you like your chili, two-way? three-way? four-way? or five-way?
Wait, what? My mind immediately went dark. Sexual innuendo dark.
Turns out it wasn't the scenario I thought. I had my choice of adding toppings to my chili/spaghetti, known as a two way. To up the ante, I could go three-way, four-way, or five-way with the addition of onions, beans, cheese. Oyster crackers and hot sauce are condiments to the toppings and not considered in the "-way" of thinking.
At 50, I shocked everyone in the vehicle and did a 5 way! (wink wink)
I also ordered a "coney" three-way. (That's a hot dog in the Coney Island style) I never had a three-way (wink wink)
That's a hot dog with chili, cheese and onions. Get your mind out of the gutter, people!!
This classic Midwestern recipe brought by immigrants that slow simmers the meat sauce then served over top noodles. But lets not stop there. MadTree Brewing in Cincinnati is bold enough to add it to their pizza. This open aired brewing company on the outskirts of the city (before the suburbs) was the perfect venue for after rugby, snacks-- pizza and beer!
This chili is nothing like you have ever had before! At first taste, you may be turned off. It's not what you ever would think "chili" would taste like. So, it's odd to your taste buds. But then, as if a siren calling to the sailor, you think back and are drawn to it like in a trance. It's that good!!
(in my opinion)
A Little History Lesson
Tom (Athanas) Kiradjieff and John (Ivan) Kiradjieff were Bulgarian American restaurateurs, Macedonian immigrants, and creators credited for their creation of a regional specialty dish known as the Cincinnati chili.
According to Wikipedia, the brothers were born in the town of Hrupishta, then in the Ottoman Empire, by Bulgarian parents. The town was annexed during the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) by Greece. The partition of the Ottoman lands of the region of Macedonia between the Balkan nation-states resulted in the fact, that some of the Slavic speakers of Ottoman Macedonia emigrated to Bulgaria or left the area.
Athanas (Tom) was born in 1892 and Ivan (John) in 1895. During the First World War, they were soldiers in the Bulgarian Army, and in 1921 emigrated to the United States.
They settled initially in New York, but after selling hot dogs there for some time, the brothers followed their big brother Argir (Argie) to Cincinnati. Born in 1880, he was a cashier of the Bulgarian Exarchate Church-School Board in Hrupishta. Argie had settled in Cincinnati by 1918, where he opened a grocery store. In Cincinnati the brothers began to develop their own business. Tom got a job as a bank clerk and worked at night, cooking chili for the customers in his brother's place. It was at this time that Tom invented the regional specialty known as Cincinnati chili.
Empress was the largest chili parlor chain in Cincinnati until 1949, when a former Empress employee and Greek immigrant, Nicholas Lambrinides, started Skyline Chili. In 1965, four brothers named Daoud, immigrants from Jordan, bought a restaurant called Hamburger Heaven from a former Empress employee. They noticed that the Cincinnati chili was outselling the hamburgers on their menu and changed the restaurant's name to Gold Star Chili. As of 2015, Skyline (with over 130 locations) and Gold Star (with 89 locations) were the largest Cincinnati chili parlor chains, while Empress had only two remaining locations, down from over a dozen during the chain's most successful period.
Empress, Skyline, and Gold Star are the three most popular "chili parlors" in the region, but more than 250 dot the map across the region. In 1985, one of the founders of Gold Star Chili, Fahid Daoud, returned to Jordan, where he opened his own parlor, called Chili House. Outside of Jordan, Chili House as of 2020 had locations in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Turkey and Qatar.
I thought my experience with Cincinnati chili would end that Friday evening, but I tell you, I couldn't take my mind off of the taste, style and food festival my mouth experienced while eating the chili. I ate if for every meal that weekend. Don't judge!
While you can purchase SkyLine Chili and Spaghetti in the freezer section at local grocery stores, it can be rather pricey--$6.99 per serving.
Below is my interpretation of Cincinnati chili. It took a lot of reading different recipes and dissecting the chili when I purchased it. I would even close my eyes and try to identify the spices. I hope you enjoy it. And if you don't the first time, try it again. It's one of those things that grow on you.
And calling a football a "prolate spheroid"-- that is from my days of listening to The Kiltie Band of Carnegie Mellon University tease their own cheerleaders.
With classics like:
"Repel them, repel them. Make them relinquish the prolate spheroid."
"Who wants a cheerleader cartwheel? The BAND wants a cheerleader cartwheel"
and who can forget the classic:
"That's alright, that's okay, you're gonna work for us someday!"
My love for staying on CMU's campus after piano lessons to watch games is like this chili-- it is borderline obsession. I need help!!
PS, I never did find out what they wear under their kilts.
COOKING CLASS WITH CAROL
Things to Consider
This is not regular chili. There are no vegetables besides onion in the recipe. You will have to supplement your diet that day with vegetables at other meals.
It seems excessive, but the cheese needs to be piled high on the chili. I haven't figured out why, but I just know it's the right thing to do. And the thinner shred, the better it will be melting into the spaghetti/chili mixture.
Diced yellow onion is another must have. The crunch of the raw onion against the soft meat and pasta just gives it that oom-pah!! it needs (remember, this is of Greek origin)
I add cocoa powder to my recipe. What I've read and understand, it is not necessarily something the original owners used, but I can't seem to get the darkness of the chili without it. And it gives that umami I don't recognize when I exclude it from the recipe.
80/20 beef is my go-to ratio. It cooks to a tender and flavorful ground beef. You can refrigerate the meat overnight not only to intensify the flavor but to also cool enough for the fat to solidify and skim off the excess if you are being health conscious.
oyster crackers and hot sauce are optional condiments, but in my opinion, it's what really brings the entire meal together. Try them first to make your own opinion, then remove if you don't like it.
2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
4 cups of water
6 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup diced onion
3 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp Worcestershire
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder (for baking)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground all spice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1 cup finely shredded mild cheddar cheese.
1 cup yellow onion finely diced.
1 can kidney beans, or your favorite, drained and rinsed.
What to do
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions cooking until soft, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, allspice, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the beef and cook the mixture, stirring, until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir to incorporate and cook about 1-2 minutes. Add salt, brown sugar, and bay leaf. Stir until well incorporated.
2. Add water; simmer the mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thicker. Add the chocolate, vinegar and Worcestershire and cook until the mixture is thickened but still soupy, about 15 more minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain well. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp of oil and toss together so it doesn't stick.
4. Discard the bay leaf and season the chili with freshly ground pepper to taste. Divide the spaghetti among bowls and top with the chili, beans, onions and cheddar. Serve with the oyster crackers and hot sauce if desired.