The waitress at the Holiday Inn restaurant near Houston Intercontinental Airport had just delivered my bowl of chili when Chuck Thompson leaned for a closer look. “The texture is pretty good. It’s red enough,” he commented, adding that you can always “red up” chili with paprika. He hovered over the bowl for a moment, inhaled deeply, and furrowed his brow. “The aroma is all right, but it’s not spicy enough. Then again, the texture isn’t too loose.” All in all, we agreed, it was a pretty fair bowl o’ red.
Thompson should know. As the author of Chuck Thompson’s Canned Chili Report ($5, from Box 11652, Houston 77293), he has set out to establish himself as the ultimate authority on canned chili. His qualifications are simple: “I have been eating canned chili at least twice a week since 1955.” He got his start while working at a television station in Mobile, Alabama. He had just interviewed cowboy star Hoot Gibson, and Gibson asked where he could get a good bowl of chili. Thompson knew a restaurant with a chili reputation, tasted some himself, and has been hooked ever since.
“I ate so many different brands I started saving labels to remember which ones I’d tried,” Thompson said. “I wrote my comments on them, like ‘too sloshy.’ Then a few months ago, I’d heard Mister Blackwell talk about who dresses well and who doesn’t. I said, ‘Gee, if one guy can express his opinion about that, I’ll express my opinion about canned chili.’” Cans come naturally to Thompson. He has tried making his own chili from scratch and using packaged spice mixes, but he fretted over the waste because he’s the only member of his family who likes the stuff.
Each can is judged on taste, color, eye appeal, aroma, consistency, aftertaste, slosh (“I shake cans at the grocery store. I like mine so you can shake it but is doesn’t sound like soup”), and grease (“I put an opened can in