Sunday, July 24, 2005

Joe Wegstein's chili

Joseph Wegstein is best remembered for his landmark work in early digital image processing, but I associate him with a fabulous recipe for chili.

My mom worked with Joe at the National Bureau of Standards in DC in the 1950s. We're talking the early days of mainframe computing at the Bureau, where Joe served as acting chief of the Office for Information Processing Standards. I was acquainted with him through his recipe for a distinctive and delicious chili with made with ground beef, onions, tomatoes, kidney beans. My mom made (and froze) enormous batches of the stuff. Over the years, I've made dozens of variations of it (hippie-style, with beer; vegetarian; spiced with peppers and cumin; thickened with corn flour; and mixed half-and-half with an Italian tomato sauce, then seasoned with oregano, garlic, and cocoa to create Cincinnati chili). But the basic, simple chili is still my favorite. Brown the beef, add chopped onions and celery, add canned tomatoes, canned beans (and, if necessary, water), and cook for a hour or two.

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