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American Table

What Does Chili Have to Do With the Oscars?

If it was good enough for Liz and Dick, it’s good enough for your Oscars viewing party menu.
By Published Feb. 27, 2018

One of my favorite things to do all year long is sit in front of the TV and watch the Academy Awards with a big bowl of chili. I know, you don't always think of something so humble (like chili) and something so glamorous (like the Oscars) in the same breath, but there's good reason.

Back in 1961, when they were in Italy filming the giant epic movie Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton used to have chili flown in from Chasen's restaurant in Los Angeles. You know, for lunch.

Wait. What? They flew food into Italy? Italy, where presumably there was good food available?

Movie stars, am I right?

I love this story because it's the ultimate example of how over-the-top the world of Hollywood can be. Although I think it's often exaggerated, it must have a kernel of truth to it. After all, with a star of Elizabeth Taylor's caliber, I can't imagine anyone refusing even the most outrageous demands. Did she even like the chili? Who cares? When the budget for "Cleopatra" broke every spreadsheet record in town, what's a few bucks for air-mailed chili? Especially if it's going to keep your top-billed stars happy?

Although Cleopatra won Oscars for art direction, costume design, special effects and cinematography, neither Taylor nor Burton was even nominated for acting awards. Some thought the snub was in part due to the dramatic budget overruns (not to mention the extra-marital affair they embarked on during production).

When the budget for "Cleopatra" broke every spreadsheet record in town, what's a few bucks for air-mailed chili?

In honor of Liz and Dick, I suggest you take a page from the annals of old Hollywood and chow down on chili for the Oscars this year. But rather than flying it in from the other side of the world, make our recipe Easy Ground Beef Chili instead. It's perfect for a party of one or full crowd, is easy to eat out of a bowl on the couch, and takes just a few minutes of prep before simmering for 45 minutes or so on the stovetop. This is the perfect timeline for pre-Oscars meal prep because it allows you to shower and change into your Oscars outfit while it bubbles. (In my case, this means sweatpants and a T-shirt.)

Speaking of bubbles, serve this chili with champagne. Champagne goes with everything, especially the Oscars.

Oscar-Worthy Chili

Easy Ground Beef Chili

Making chili doesn’t have to be an all-day a air: Our complex, savory ground-beef version is on the table in about an hour.
View the Recipe