It may be scorned by purists, ignored by food snobs and avoided by people who have no culinary sense of adventure in their souls. But in one source, at least, Cincinnati’s main contribution to a life worth living is receiving its due. According to a story on a website called Thrillist headlined “The One Must-Eat Food in Every State,” the one food you “must” eat in Ohio is:
“Cleveland has its Polish Boy. Parma has its pierogis. The world has the slider,” the story concedes. “But Cincinnati’s famous chili is the true icon, and though Skyline claims the most fame, our beans are on Camp Washington. Logic dictates to get it 5 Ways — chili, onions, cheese, beans, and spaghetti — though we also recommend it on a hot dog. Or a burger. Or on fries. Or in a bowl. Really, get it however you want. You’re in a chili parlor, after all, not a Left Eye one.”
I don’t know what makes Skyline chili any different than Camp Washington Chili, and I’m clueless about the “Left Eye one” reference. But according to the Camp Washington Chili webpage, “Since 1940, Camp Washington Chili has been proudly serving ‘chili-heads’ from Cincinnati and all over the world from the corner of Hopple and Colerain Streets, in the heart of Cincinnati’s Camp Washington neighborhood.”
Wherever you get it, I can’t argue with the Thrillist choice of Cincinnati chili. Although I grew up on the kielbasa of Cleveland and the pierogi of Parma, I quickly acquired the taste for Cincinnati chili when I moved to Dayton and passed it along to succeeding generations of Stewarts. When my son and his family fly here from Washington, D.C., they drive directly from the airport to the Skyline on Brown Street before proceeding on to our house. Another son and daughter-in-law, who live in North Carolina, even have threatened to open a Cincinnati chili outlet in Charlotte; although to make it successful down there they’d probably have to put the chili, onions, cheese and beans on top of grits.
All of that being said, I have trouble with the “must” thing. Just about every publication with access to a printing press or the Internet has beaten the word to death. You “must” see this movie … you “must” read that book … you ”must” visit these tourist attractions. But they never tell you why you “must” do those things, or what will happen to you if you don’t.
And a list that purports to have sampled every food produced in every state is bound to be suspect. The “must-eat” food in Delaware, for instance, is something called Scrapple Hash. I have no idea what scrapple is, but any food that has to be hashed probably isn’t worth eating. So if I’m ever in Delaware at lunch time, I’d probably just keep driving until I got to Maryland, where the must-eat food is crab cakes.
(For a complete list of the foods you must eat, go to www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/the-best-thing-to-eat-in-every-state?share=c)
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