Chili or Chile?

A long time ago, I attended a Spanish class at a fat, dumb American college. In that class, I was told, by the poquito caliente who taught the class, that chili was a pepper, Chile was a country.


Years passed. I stood by the sacred motto, that chili was a pepper and Chile was a country, until recently. As I’ve aged, I’ve learned a few things, and one of them is that language is always in flux.

Getting hung up on certain things, like the imbecilic word “normalcy” is the path to madness. Don’t fight the flow, holmes. Relax.

A few months ago, during a particularly spicy encounter at a restaurante where Mexican food was served, I discovered that in that particular part of the Spanish Speaking world, Chile isĀ  a country, chile is a pepper, and chili is a nasty stew made by Texans.

This jives with the word dropped on me by none-other than my cooking guru, John Thorne. He explained to me, in one of his amazingly friendly emails to which I barely replied, that chili was made by Texans who lived across the border and were the enemy. Chile was a pepper served in all respectable places in New Mexico, and New Mexicans honor that humble chile to this day, by asking if you want a green chile salsa or a red one.

A chile. Not “a chili.”

In this world, where I was a foreigner, “chili” is an English word.

So I learned, slowly, not to be such a know-it-all about peppers.

I’m still a know-it-all about everything else, though.

2 Replies to “Chili or Chile?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.