James Proffitt

The Weirich family of Cincinnati digs in to a meal at Camp Washington Chili. (Photo by James Proffitt.)

Chili, Cincy style

Fact is, no one remembers the day those foreigners invaded Cincinnati — they don’t teach it in the history books — but that influx of folks from Greece and the Macedonian region early in the 20th century has left its tasty marks on the region.

There are more than 200 such shops in the region, and the star of the show at each is the soupy, spicy concoction that, despite the name, bears little resemblance to what most Americans consider chili. Further, it’s tough to guess what’s in the chilis because no one wants to talk recipes.

The original

Steve Martin has operated Empress Chili in Alexandria, Kentucky, for 35 years.

“Empress is the original,” he says. “It all started in 1922 with brothers Tom and Jeff Kiradjieff; they were Macedonians. Empress is the best.”

Three men look into the water from a boat near Middle Bass Island.

Scientist captains

It’s no secret that Lake Erie’s recent algae blooms have a small army of scientists and conservationists working nonstop to remedy its troubles. But a little-known faction has been feeding valuable data to those problem-solvers: charter captains.

“We first started with the Ohio EPA,” says Dave Spangler, longtime captain and vice president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (LECBA). The EPA, he says, sent lab technicians wading near shore to collect samples. “The better part of the Western Basin just wasn’t getting covered,” he says.

Nancy Stranahan, co-founder and director of Arc of Appalachia smiles for a photo in a forest

Arc of Appalachia: Mission to preserve

Ask Nancy Stranahan, “What’s the point of preserving plain old woods?” and you’re certain to get an earful.

“I’d say guilty as charged, except for the word ‘plain,'” Stranahan says, explaining that southern Ohio’s hardwood forests are the last best chance to save an ecosystem that has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. “The fact that 100,000 multicellular native organisms are at stake takes ‘plain’ out of the discussion.”

A picture of assorted foods, including strawberries, eggs, lettuce, bread, nuts, and pies.

A matter of trust

A card table laden with amber honey, a small cart burdened with shiny rhubarb and lush green asparagus, a picnic table flush with tomatoes or peaches. Sweet! Your eyes settle on fresh picks but see there’s no one around — and there it is: a coffee can, a cigar box, or a little door with a slot and a sign reading “Money” or “Pay here.” Welcome to Ohio: the land of honest food and plenty of it.