As chili spread throughout the Southwest, the purity of the San Antonio original -- basically cubed (not ground) beef, onions, garlic, a paste made from a variety of toasted dry chiles, cumin, and oregano, preferably Mexican -- was soon diluted. Beans (even white ones!) were added, turkey was substituted for beef, spaghetti somehow put in an appearance. Heresy! And as a result, San Antonio ultimately ceded its primacy to locations as unlikely as Hollywood, with its bastardized bean & tomato version from now-shuttered Chasen’s.
It will require serious dedication to the cause if San Antonio is to win back any kind of crown, as events such as the OTICCC and CASI contests only exist due to a carefully cultivated system of preliminary cook-offs in cities from Seattle to Savannah. Points must be accumulated in order to qualify. In Texas, there are cook-offs all around us, but San Antonio suffers from a shocking dearth of good chili on local menus and a notable lack of enthusiasm in the competition department. This alone calls for a trip to Terlingua November 3rd-5th for a little inspiration. That doesn’t mean the good citizens of other Texas cities need not apply, of course; this is a hajj-like pilgrimage for any true son or daughter of the Lone Star State, if only to bear witness to the likes of David Lazarus of Killeen, who has won the OTICCC championship the last three years in a row.