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History shows chili soothes the soul

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When the young, upwardly mobile of the late 19th Century descended upon a young land called

Oklahoma, entrepreneurs and industrious service vendors followed. 

Snake-oil salesmen, saloon-owners, traveling theater troupes, launderers, clergymen joined food vendors in attempting to civilize the wind-blown plainsmen.

Chili parlors started popping up before 1900 in Oklahoma and enjoyed prosperity for more than 50 years. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, 33 chili parlors are documented in 16 communities from 1897 through 1948, including Perry, Grant, Frederick, Blackwell, Gracemont, Red Oak, Frederick, and Woodward.

Ike’s Chili Parlor opened in Tulsa around that time. It lasted long enough to become a favorite haunt of Will Rogers. He apparently regularly coughed up 15 cents for hot bowl at Ike’s. That, obviously, was Depression-proof pricing. And so Ike’s carried on, gaining fame when Peggy Cass announced to a national television audience on “What’s My Line?” during the 1960s, that Ike’s was indeed the best chili in the country and that she had some in her freezer at home. Ike’s still thrives in Tulsa at 5941 E Admiral.Lyndon Johnson, born and reared on the banks of the Pedernales River, understood the soul-soothing qualities of good chili.

Johnson never figured out Hippies or Vietnam as president. He left the Democratic Party in a shambles. He won a close Senate election against Gov. Coke Stevenson in which a key district later showed voters, in a miraculous show of coincidence, cast their lots in alphabetical order.

And yet, bus tours still run daily to his family ranch.

I like to think it’s because his wife, Lady Bird, made Pedernales River chili a household recipe during the LBJ’s abbreviated stay in the White House. LBJ is remembered as a good ol’ boy and Lady Bird has a library named after her.

Chili, not a divider!

And think what might’ve been had State Rep. Randy Terrill been around back in the 19-oughts. We might not have any chili at all. The original Ike and his nephew Ivan Johnson, purportedly got the chili recipe from an employee named Alex Garcia, of, umm, Texas.

Doubt he had a green card.

Would you have us a chili-free state, Randy? Lucky for you, this information wasn’t circulated before the elections. 

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