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EMBRACE DEBATE: IS CINCINNATI CHILI GUMBO?

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GOTTA HEAR BOTH SIDES OF THE DEBATE: CHILI, AND ALSO MURDER

THE QUESTION PROPOSED, BY ACTION COOKBOOK: There’s been a lot of talk - maybe, maybe too much talk - on Twitter the last 24 hours about the boundaries, norms and standards of Southern food, as spurred by this tweet:

There’s a lot of responses regarding the relative merits of grits, sweet tea, pecan pie and so forth. That’s not what we’re here to discuss. We’re here to re-open a debate as old as time, one that’s bedeviled scholars, food scientists, and the public since age immemorial.

That’s right, Is Cincinnati Chili a Form of Gumbo? Let’s go to the tape.

POINT #1: Is it Southern?

Yes, of course it is. Cincinnati is located in the U.S. state of Kentucky, which is part of the American South. Next question.

COUNTERPOINT #1, BY SPENCER HALL: Are you ready to get your ass kicked into the sun, or at least over the Ohio River? Because I will kick you into a river.

Cincinnati is in Ohio. If we put Cincinnati in Kentucky, it would just be Louisville Two: Now There’s a Bridge and No Racetrack. Cincinnati has a whole series of pointless tunnels underneath it and at least when Kentucky does that they pull coal out of them. The point is: Cincinnati is too dumb to be a part of Kentucky, and that is about the most damning thing imaginable.

But, you say, there’s an NFL team there, and not Louisville! Don’t you want that!

The answer is no because Kentucky is a basketball state. It is also because the NFL didn’t put a franchise in Louisville for good reason: The horses already had a better labor contract and safer working conditions than most professional football players. Imagine the horses telling the players that their families don’t pay for the bullet at the end, not to mention the free housing and food along the way! Competing in that labor environment for the league was a non-starter.

We don’t want to speak for Kentucky, but we have to because Kentucky had a court date. WITH BASKETBALL!!! And also an actual court date, one they couldn’t move. Judge said one more missed date and he’d have to put them in real jail this time. That would be fair in most situations, but that judge owes Kentucky three grand from a backroom card game in Owensboro. Damn your ungrateful delinquent paying ass, Judge.

This is America and we ain’t bowing to no Queen or Queen city. Keep it, Ohio.

POINT #2, BY ACTION COOKBOOK: What’s in it?

For this, we’re consulting the ultimate source on Southern cooking: Wikipedia. Per Wikipedia, which cannot be challenged, “Gumbo consists primarily of a strongly-flavored stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and what Louisianians call the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables, namely celery, bell peppers, and onions.

Let’s break that down further.

A STRONGLY-FLAVORED STOCK

Check.

MEAT OR SHELLFISH

Seems likely.

A THICKENER

Buddy ain’t nothin’ thicker than finely-shredded Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese. That’ll brick you up real good.

WHAT LOUISIANANS CALL “THE HOLY TRINITY” OF CELERY, BELL PEPPERS, AND ONIONS

I can see the onions right there. That one’s clear. As far as the celery and bell peppers, are they in there? Hard to say. You could taste it and find out, or you could just concede this point. Verdict: yeah.

COUNTERPOINT #2, BY SPENCER HALL: NO REALLY I WILL KICK YOU INTO THE RIVER AND NO ONE WILL MOURN YOU

I have no rebuttal to the imagery above that does not involve dropkicking you, Action Cookbook, into a vat of that reeking buttwater you call “chili”. Actually, this may make you stronger. I will instead kick you into an actual gumbo pot, where you may drown in the one thing no Ohioan can float in: Good taste.

Alternately, after reading this argument, there will be others who will also want to take you on a trip to Asskick Mountain. I propose a dunk tank of actual, Louisiana-approved gumbo. You will be wearing a full-body plush crayfish costume. We will have tennis balls, and charge a dollar for each throw.

All proceeds go towards a general assistance fund for anyone wishing to leave Ohio. After we are finished, I will kick you — still clad in the gumbo-soiled crawfish costume— into the Ohio River.

POINT #3, BY ACTION COOKBOOK: Is it a cultural mixing pot?

Per Wikipedia, “The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures”. Well, look right here. You’ve got spaghetti, that’s Italian. The meat sauce? Developed by Macedonian immigrants. The cheese, beans and onions? Could’ve been anyone. Cincinnati’s large German population. Any of the cultures that passed through on the Ohio River. Even you. Did you do this? Point is, it definitely combines ingredients and practices.

COUNTERPOINT #3, SPENCER HALL : Will anyone find you?

No, because the river keeps its own secrets.

POINT #4, ACTION COOKBOOK: Is it traditionally associated with places that gumbo would be served?

Well, sure. What does the South love? Winning college football teams. You may not know this, but the Cincinnati Bearcats - whose games this regional variant of gumbo are often served before - went 11-2 this season. That’s actually one game better than LSU. Also, of those two teams, only Cincinnati beat a team from New Orleans this year.

So, yes, it’s traditional Southern tailgate food.

COUNTERPOINT #4, SPENCER HALL: Actually this is a good LSU burn

Fresh from a disastrous Saints loss, we say the more cauterizing the wound, the better.

POINT #5: Why are you doing this?

Fair enough.

COUNTERPOINT #5, SPENCER HALL:

[stands pencil sharp endpoint-up on table]

Why yes, I was going to show you a magic trick. Come closer.

POINT #6: Do you have any GIFs of Cincinnati chili being served?

Gross.

COUNTERPOINT #6, SPENCER HALL: Yielded.

It’s gross as hell. It won’t save you, but we agree here. (Reminder: It won’t save you.)

IN CONCLUSION, ACTION COOKBOOK

Cincinnati is a land of contrasts. Also, the Bearcats should be in the SEC.

IN CONCLUSION, SPENCER HALL

I know where you live. I would like to argue the second point, but also recognize that Cincinnati has just as much a claim as Missouri for being in the conference, and yet somehow that still happened, too.

Have fun starting your car in the morning.

WEIGH IN!

Poll

Is Cincinnati chili gumbo?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Yes, of course it’s gumbo.
    (165 votes)
  • 62%
    No, it’s jambalaya.
    (271 votes)
436 votes total Vote Now