In the end, it was better than Wendy’s. Whether it was enough better than Wendy’s for the trouble it caused, well ….
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Wendy’s chili. No, I love Wendy’s chili.
So why did I start competing with founder Dave Thomas’s recipe? Let me explain.
It all started two years ago when my wife suggested we invite a friend over to watch the Super Bowl.
She said she would make something easy to eat before the game so it wouldn’t interfere with the football.
She decided on homemade vegetable soup. Her recipe starts with V-8 juice, and everyone likes it. Except Joe, that is. He claims to hate it. (Perhaps it’s that teenager thing – if we like it, he’s going to hate it. You know the routine.)
Anyway, Jenny suggested getting a carton of Wendy’s chili for Joe. My ears perked up. Hmm, vegetable soup or chili? Chili was beginning to sound pretty good.
Maybe we should make homemade chili, too, I suggested. Then we would have a choice.
She said it was too much trouble. If I wanted chili, I should just buy two cartons at Wendy’s.
When I said I could make it myself, she reminded me that I had never made chili in my life, and that I probably wouldn’t like it anyway because it wouldn’t taste the same as Wendy’s.
That’s when my stubborn streak set in. We were going to have homemade chili, no matter what. How much trouble could it be? A little ground beef, a few beans and some seasoning, I thought.
Jenny found a recipe and a picture of something called Ranch-Style Chili that looked sort of like Wendy’s in one of our cookbooks. The rest was up to me, she said. She set out making her vegetable soup.
The ingredient list included 13 items. The first was celery salt. I headed to the shelf of spices. Four half-used bottles of sweet basil, but no celery salt.
We had the chili powder, but it had turned a dark maroon color and was nearly two years out of date. We had the oregano. I was 1-for-3. It didn’t improve much as I made my way down the list.
Not counting the trip to the grocery store, it took me two hours to make the chili. But at the end of the evening, I got the ultimate compliment. Jenny said my chili was better than Wendy’s – and better than her vegetable soup.
I was feeling pretty good until I figured I had spent nearly $30 to make eight servings. Wend’s chili costs 99 cents a serving.
Well, the craving for homemade chili overtook me again on Pro Bowl Sunday. This time I had the spices, and worried less about how it would turn out. I’m happy to report my chili was just as good the second time around.
Later, though, I found out “good” is relative. As you know, our house in Alabama is for sale, and we had prospective buyers coming through the next day.
When we came downstairs Monday morning, we were whacked in the face with the smell of chili. Jenny burned candles and baked cookies, crossed her fingers, and went to work.
The next day, same story. The chili smell didn’t leave until Wednesday, when no one looked at our house. And no one called back to see it again.
I’d better leave the chili making to Wendy’s. Dave’s got the recipe down pat, and lots of kitchens to make it in – and none of them are for sale.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.