Zephyr Wright and Pedernales River Chili

Zephyr Wright

Come and get it!! Welcome to The Ranch. This month we are serving up Chili in honor of National Chili Day on 2/25 and Zephyr Wright, the influential cook for the Johnson family for over 30 years.

Zephyr Wright

Zephyr Wright and LBJ

Zephyr Wright was born and raised in Marshall, TX. In Marshall, she attended the highly regarded Wiley College and studied home economics. The president of Wiley College recommended Zephyr Wright to Ladybird Johnson when she was looking for a cook. She worked for the Johnsons for over 30 years and created classic southern style cooking for the them in Washington DC and back home in Texas.

In addition to chili, she was known for Pecan Pie, Spoon Bread, and being able to recreate LBJ’s favorite foods with less fat and salt when he was ordered to lose weight. She could also create a meal with almost no notice when LBJ wanted to entertain.

The Wrights and Johnsons became close and LBJ would rely on and listen to what Zephyr Wright had to say about the Black experience in America. She was present when LBJ signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and was given one of the signing pens from LBJ while he said to her “You deserve this more than anyone else.”

Zephyr Wright in the front on the left at the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Zephyr Wright in the front on the left at the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Zephyr Wright had a remarkable influence on the cooking of the US. She is said to have brought Ro-tel to the national scene when she used it in the Pedernales River Chili recipe she created for the Johnsons. The chili recipe was a favorite of the Johnsons and was printed on recipe cards and mailed out to the thousands of people who requested it. The ranch pictured on the card is the Johnson family ranch, or “Texas White House” which is on the Pedernales River and how the chili got its name. Chili became the state dish of Texas in 1977.

The original chili recipe

The Original

We recommend this chili recipe as is but if you want to zip it up a bit, go ahead and add Daddy Sam’s Original or Daddy Sam’s Ginger Jalapeño Bar-B-Que Sawce to it. We usually throw in about half a cup of Ginger Jalapeño but it’s your chili! Add to taste. Thank you, Zephyr Wright, and Just Slop It On!

More information about Zephyr Wright and chili here:

http://thehistorychicks.com/episode-151-zephyr-wright/

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/dining/black-chefs.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1988/04/27/burnita-s-matthews-dies/ 0651341f-ddd7-42b6-be16-36f6a900183c/

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/zephyr-wright-white-house-cook-article https://www.nationalchiliday.com/chili-history.html

https://discoverlbj.org/item/oh-wrightz-19741205-1-81-1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zephyr_Wright

https://www.npr.org/2008/02/19/18950467/hercules-and-hemings-presidents-slave- chefs?ps=rs