The first American known to have remarked about San Antonio's chili con carne was J.C.Clopper, who visited in 1826. He wrote: "When they (poor famalies) have to pay for their meat in the market, a very little is made to suffice for a family; this is generally cut into a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat-this is all stewed together."

Although virtually the same as the chili con carne in the principal plaza of many large Mexican villages at that time, San Antonio's fiery dish was influenced by the Canary Islanders, who arrived in 1731.

They added oregano, ground cumin seed (comino), and chopped garlic. But we can thank the people of Central Mexico for the original dish. John G.Bour, an anthropologist and U.S.Army captain stationed in Texas in the early 1890s, visited San Antonio and Northern Mexico villages while studying the folklore of foods and eating habits. He wrote: "Chili, called aji and quauhchilli by the Aztecs, was the condiment in all the feast...at the time of the landing of the CORTEZ (THE SPANISH CONQUEROR, IN 1519). There were several varieties (of peppers) the red, white, green, sweet and bitter.

"No Mexican dish of meat or vegetables is deemed complete without it, and its supremacy as a table adjunct is conceded by both garlic and tomatoes, which also bob up serenely in nearly every effort of the culinary art."

According to Jean Andrews in Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums, native Americans in central Mexico have spiced their foods with fiery peppers since at least 7,000 B.C. Originally, wild meats-deer, buffalo, turkey-comprised the essence of the piquant stew. After the Spanish introduced cattle to the western hemisphere in the 16th century, beef assumed its place on the menu.

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