I gather that there is some brouhaha today about a fast-food chain that serves mediocre fried chicken. (The One True Fried Chicken was made in an iron skillet by my mother and grandmother, and anything else is a pale and shoddy imitation.) Really, if you are going to eat fast food, Cincinnati chili is a far more satisfactory dish.

Unfortunately, Skyline has no outlets in Baltimore, but I have a recipe for one variant of Cincinnati chili from the late Bob Johnson, my first news editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer, and I am willing to impart the secret to you.

But first, a caution. You have got to get over your unexamined assumptions about the word chili. Cincinnati chili, invented by Greeks in the 1920s, is not chili in either the Texan or Mexican forms. It is served over spaghetti (yes, I said spaghetti; just listen) with shredded cheddar cheese in the basic form, the three-way. Add beans, and it's a four-way. Add chopped raw union, and it is the five-way, the perfect food. My first wife used to say, "They put something in it to make you crave it," and once you've set aside your preconceptions and tried it, you will crave it, too.

Here is the recipe (some variants include chocolate; this one does not).



1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 pound sausage (best if the beef and sausage are run through a grinder together)

2 cups chopped onion

1 large diced green pepper

1/4 cup chopped cabbage

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons oil or bacon fat

2 cans of tomatoes (1 pound each)

1 cup tomato juice

1 cup water

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt (add more later if desired)

2 tablespoons chili powder (more can be added later, to taste)

1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar