Winter weather is here, grrr, brrr and … mmmm. The upside to being chilly is eating chili.
That’s the point that Lincoln TV meteorologist Liz Whalley was trying to make in a recent tweet when she posted a photograph of what appeared to be a bowl of chili topped by some lovely shredded cheese.
"When it’s snowing, you make chili and CORNBREAD," she tweeted.
But Whalley, the morning/midday meteorologist at KLKN-TV, Lincoln’s ABC affiliate, committed the sin of showing said chili alongside the wrong baked accompaniment. Cornbread.
The Twitter correction was swift. “COME ON LIZ,” said the City Cafe, a mom-and-pop diner some two-plus hours north and west of Lincoln in Newman Grove.
The City Cafe, which has a bigger following on Twitter (946) than Newman Grove has people (721), then posted a photo of its chili with the proper Nebraska side, a gooey, frosting-laden cinnamon roll.
Whalley said she was not going to knock something she hasn't tried but would stick for now to her Ohio upbringing and go with cornbread. With extra cheese and honey baked in.
“That’s what we always made at home. A pan of cornbread,” said Whalley. “If you’re at a truckstop or a restaurant, you get cornbread with your chili. Never a cinnamon roll. Moving here? It was just weird ... And people are like, ‘This is the only way I eat chili… With a cinnamon roll.’”
Growing up in Omaha, I’d never heard of chili and cinnamon rolls as a Nebraska pairing until I reported on a rural school district making it. And neither had City Cafe owners Dawn and Adam Witchell, who are native Omahans too.
But I’d come to understand chili and cinnamon rolls were as Nebraska as football. And when the Witchells took over the cafe in Newman Grove, they went "when-in-Rome." They have learned the farmer lingo, draw cute pictures of tractors on to-go boxes and have an inviting and clever social media presence that draws in outsiders.
They serve chili and cinnamon rolls on Fridays, depending on the temperature. A bowl and a roll go for the nice, low price of $5.50.
That can warm a person up.
While I had Whalley on the phone, I was less interested in what goes with chili. And more interested in just how chilly this winter was going to be, so I could prepare. My 2018 Winter PTSD is still fresh.
“I’m not 100% sure,” she said. “I’m hoping it’s not going to be crazy cold.”
Well, at least there’s always chili.