A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from September 09, 2007
False Alarm Chili (1-Alarm Chili; 2-Alarm Chili; 3-Alarm Chili)

Fire departments have their false alarms, two-alarm fires, three-alarm fires, etc. This alarm system to describe the hotness of chili was first used by Wick Fowler, Dallas newspaperman and chili enthusiast, in the 1960s.
A “false alarm chili” is the mildest, perhaps made with a limited amount of chili powder and ground red (cayenne) pepper. The more the alarms, the hotter the chili.
Luzianne Products
Wick Fowler’s False Alarm Chili offers the same great taste of 2-Alarm but with a milder blend of spices and seasonings. The whole family will enjoy this kinder, gentler chili.
International Chili Society
North, South, East & West…cooks took no prisoners at the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff. Wick Fowler, walked away with 1st place, the coveted bronze chili pot. His 2 Alarm Chili will go down in history as the best bowl of chili for 1970!
Winning Recipe
2 Alarm Chili
2 pounds meat coarsely ground or diced
8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 package of 2 Alarm Chili Ingredients*
Sear the meat until it becomes gray. Add tomato sauce and water. Add all the ingredients except the masa flour. Cover kettle and simmer 1 hour and 15 minutes, until meat is tender. Stir occasionally. Skim off excess grease. Mix masa flour with warm water into a smooth paste. Stir into chili to tighten it and add flavor. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes and salt to taste. Chili is ready to serve.
For 1-Alarm, use only half of the red pepper. For False-Alarm Chili, leave out the red pepper. For 3-Alarm Chili or hotter, merely add hot pepper.
*2-Alarm Chili mix is available in many areas. It was developed by the late Wick Fowler but for obvious reasons, the exact ingredients cannot be released by the Caliente Chili Company of Austin, Texas, who packages and distributes the mix.
Servings: 6
27 June 1963, Brownsville (TX) Herald, pg. 7B, col. 2:
DALLAS (UPI)—The chief chili head inhaled deeply over his bowl and his eyes watered as he spooned the three-alarm Chili and read the sad letter from the man in Coon Rapids, Minn.
He now has the Cooper recipe—and for good measure the two-alarm chili recipe developed by Wick Fowler of the Dallas Morning News.
9 August 1964, Dallas Morning News, “Tolbert’s Texas” by Frank X. Tolbert, section 1, pg. 21:
WICK FOWLER, THE Dallas News columnist who is premier chef for the Chili Appreciation Society, International, has had a busy summer. Last week, Wick sent a pot of his 2-alarm chili to President Johnson, with Presidential Aide Jack Valenti as the messenger.
19 February 1965, Dallas Morning News, section 1, pg. 6:
AUSTIN, Texas—Wick Fowler shipped an order for his “two-alarm chili” to Paris, France, Wednesday but returned a $5 check to the customer, F. W. Wood of 6 Rue de Leningrad.
29 March 1965, Dallas Morning News, “Tolbert’s Texas” by Frank X. Tolbert, section 4, pg. 1:
Things have changed in the Society recently, though, and International Chief Cook Wick Fowler now omits suet from his 2-alarm and 4-alarm chili (you can get the spices and directions packaged by Mr. Fowler now in many stores), and Wick spoons off grease, too.
29 May 1965, Dallas Morning News, section A, pg. 14:
Channel 8’s “Business Report,” heard Sundays at 1:30 p.m. will present a feature this week on Wick Fowler’s “Two-Alarm Chili,” which has now gone into world-wide distribution.
Fowler, newspaper writer whose “Fowler Fare” appears daily and Sunday in The Dallas News, developed the chili product from the recipe for which he is noted.
27 July 1967, Dallas Morning News, “Tolbert’s Texas” by Frank X. Tolbert, section D, pg. 1:
MR. FOWLER makes and packages an excellent preparation for chili-making. You only need to add the cubes of beef. He styles this “2-Alarm Chili.” Now he is at work in his Austin laboratories on an 8-alarm Chili just for H. Allen Smith to sample.
“I’m ready to duel with Mr. Smith, and I’ll bet he will find 8-alarm too hot to swallow,” said W. Fowler.
1 February 1968, Dallas Morning News, section D, pg. 4 ad:
“3 ALARM CHILI SEASONING—Wick Fowler’s notorious palate pleaser; complete directions on package; makes 3 quarts…packet 1.49
28 September 1972, Dallas Morning News, section D, pg. 5:
Wick Fowler, Chili King,
Newspaperman, Wit, Dies
Fowler was 63.
Fowler had two hobbies, chili and boats. He became official chef of the Chili Appreciation Society organized in 1951. He traveled many places in the U.S. and Mexico establishing chili as he understood it. It is said that the menu in a fine Mexico City hotel still lists, “Chili con carne, ala Wick Fowler, 18 pesos.” He twice won the world chili cookoff at Terlingua.
5 January 1975, Nurlington (NC) Daily Times-News, pg. 5C, cols. 6-8:
There’s even a chili mix, available from a Texas company, with instructions on how to make “3-Alarm,” “2-Alarm,” “1-Alarm” or “False Alarm” chili, depending on how much hot pepper you dare to use.
27 February 1975, Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle, pg. B1, col. 2:
Some of the men on “A” shift prefer to leave out the chili powder. “That’s a false-alarm chili,” Joe scoffed.
1 pound hamburger
1 can tomato sauce
2 cans chili without beans
1 can jalapeno pinto beans
1/2 medium onion, diced
chili powder
Brown meat and drain fat; add tomato sauce, chili, beans and onion. Simmer 10 minutes. Season: false-alarm chili, without chili powder; one-alarm chili—1 tablespoon chili powder; two-alarm chili—2 tablespoons chili powder; three-alarm chili—2 tablespoons chili powder and 1 teaspoon red cayenne pepper.
Serve with jalapeno peppers and large quantities of ice water.
Google Books
Deliciously Simple: Quick and Easy, Low-Sodium, Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol, Low-Sugar Meals
by Harriet Roth
New York: New American Library
Pg. 228:
This is my version, called False Alarm Chili because it uses ground turkey instead of beef! 
Austin Chronicle (October 3, 2003)
Chili cook-offs really became a cultural phenomenon in 1967 when Dallas columnist Frank X. Tolbert got Austin’s 3-Alarm Chili salesman Wick Fowler to meet journalist H. Allen Smith in the dusty ghost town of Terlingua in the Big Bend to see who could cook the best bowl of red. Fowler and Smith tied, but vowed to try again the next year. Over the last three decades, friendly cooking competitions have spread around the world and to barbecue, beans, menudo, and almost any other food that can be cooked over a Coleman stove.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Sunday, September 09, 2007 • Permalink

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