Seven horrible ways to ruin chili

Granted, chili is something of a sacred thing -- and the nature of that sacredness varies, depending on where you were brought up, and what your grandma ladled into a bowl. Still, there are some things that you can do to chili that seem like anathema, whether or not you believe with all your heart that chili should or should not contain beans.

So, in the interests of better football Sunday dinners everywhere, let's take an admittedly subjective look at the various ways you can completely disrespect this American standard bowl of goodness. We've accompanied each sin with a crude illustration because we believe that strongly in our chili convictions.

7. Too Much Cheese 
I know, I know: This is America, and there's no such thing as too much cheese. Except that there is, and your doctor, your arteries, and your bowl of chili all know that. You're not making a pizza there, chief -- easy on the cheddar. 6. Serve it Over Noodles 
With apologies to Cincinnati, if you serve your chili over pasta, it becomes something else. When I was a kid, we called that Chili Mac -- which is exactly what my junior high school called it too, when they served it for hot lunch with applesauce and limp green beans. And really, once middle schools adopt a dish, that dish is pretty much done in the culinary canon. Look what happened to pizza boats, after all. Never recovered. 5. Make it Vegetarian
 Come on. We don't make fake squash out of meat scraps, and you shouldn't try to pass off textured vegetable protein as meat in my chili. Most any kind of meat will do, but hamburger, as we all know, is the most common.

4. Chocolate 
Don't get me wrong: Chocolate in chili provides something close to a mole sort of flavor, which is pretty sweet, both literally and figuratively. But the result, in the end, isn't really chili. It's something new. Hell, toss some M&Ms in there too, if you want, just don't tell me it's chili when you do. 3. Fruit
 I'm sorry, fruit is what you have for Sunday brunch with quiche and arugula salad. This is chili, Carmen Miranda. Keep that fruit on your head. 2. Barbecue Sauce
 BBQ itself has a long and storied history, and devotees of its sauces are as committed to that art as much as chili champions are to their own. But combining the two just disrespects both. Can one dish successfully honor two culinary faiths in one bowl? Thou shalt serve no other dish before me, says chili. Though a beer on the side is still encouraged, which is why the pews are packed every Sunday. 1. Can It
 Arguing that canned chili is somehow still chili is like defending Spaghetti-Os as Italian cuisine. You can make the case, but you look like an asshole doing it.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen