Listener Letters and Hello Cincinnati

Host Neal Conan reads from listener comments on recent programs including a much-discussed look at the morality of panhandling. Talk of the Nation also welcomes WVXU in Cincinnati to the family with a short take on Cincinnati's celebrated chili, eaten most often with a unique base of spaghetti.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

On Mondays, we read from your e-mails. And we got a lot of it regarding our program on repairs. We talked about which of our possessions is still worth the expense of a fix and which we're more inclined these days to just toss out.

Jennifer Martin Davis(ph) writes: `My husband insisted on repairing our broken microwave, our laptop, our children's pool, even our oven door. I've sewn on buttons and patches for years. There's a huge hidden cost to us all when we throw things out--toxins. Learn how to fix things. It's fun and gratifying and the moral thing to do.'

And Bill Dolkelsky(ph) writes: `Many appliances like my 50-year-old toaster, my 40-year-old blender and 48-year-old water tank will still outlast anything bought today.'

Warren Chisolm(ph) of Albany, Oregon, went the other way. `I'm a violin maker,' he wrote. `A few weeks ago, a fellow with a string bass called who was desperate to get his broken bridge replaced; I relented. After three days of struggle with wretched thing, I said to myself, "This is why I don't do repair." Bottom line: We don't repair things that are shoddy to begin with.'

We also heard from many of you regarding our show on panhandlers and the moral, ethical and financial issue we all face: Whether to give or not to give. Heidi Yarger of San Francisco writes: `I've noticed a significant decline in my personal tolerance and warmth toward the ever-increasing homeless panhandling problem. While I still have compassion for all those on the street, many of these people are drug-addicted or mentally ill. I prefer to give my time and money to organizations that help.'

But Elizabeth Felling of Overland Park, Kansas, demurs. `Each time I see a panhandler, I see it as a test of my humanity. It's not my place to judge what that person will do with the money; it's my place to help a fellow human being.'

You can send us e-mail at totn@npr.org. Please include the topic for the program in the subject line. Also, tell us where you're writing from, if you would, and give us some guidance on how to pronounce your name or your hometown if it's needed.

If your hometown is Cincinnati, you might be hearing us on NPR member station WVXU for the first time. WVXU launches a new program lineup today. So if you're near the Ohio River where it's joined by the Miami, Little Miami, and Licking rivers, we're going to want to hear more from you between bites of your celebrated chili, of course.

For listeners in the rest of the country, Cincinnati boasts more chili restaurants per capita and square mile than any city in North America. Cincinnati chili, though, is probably not the chili you know best. For one thing, Cincinnati chili comes in a number of different ways. More about that from an expert on the topic. Bashir Dowd(ph) is a grandson of one of the four founders who started Gold Star Chili 40 years ago, and he joins us now from the family's flagship chili parlor in the Mt. Washington neighborhood.

Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. BASHIR DOWD (Gold Star Chili): Hi, Neal. Nice to be here.

CONAN: So what are the ways of chili?

Mr. DOWD: Oh, there's a bunch of ways; two-way, three-way, four-way, five-way, any way you like it. The most popular is the three-way, which is a plate of spaghetti topped with our great chili and topped with cheddar cheese. You can also get onions and beans, and that makes it a five-way.

CONAN: And chili and spaghetti seem to be the two crucial ingredients here.

Mr. DOWD: Yes, very much so.

CONAN: Why spaghetti?

Mr. DOWD: Well, you know, it's hard to say. I think originally the concept started with putting the Cincinnati-style chili on hot dogs. And I think by around the '30s, sometime in the 1930s, perhaps customers asked for it, perhaps it was just a creative idea of some of the original chili people, but they started doing it and people fell in love with it.

CONAN: So how did four brothers from Jordan decide that chili was their pathway to success?

Mr. DOWD: Well, it was, I think, by luck. They purchased a restaurant in Mt. Washington named Hamburger Heaven back in the early '60s. It had a chili recipe, and over time they redeveloped the formula and discovered that the customers liked the chili more than the other items. So they changed the name to Gold Star and removed some of the other items and, thus, Gold Star Chili was born in 1965.

CONAN: And how much do you sell now?

Mr. DOWD: Well, we've got 105 restaurants. We produce, in our commissary, about 20,000 pounds of product a day.

CONAN: And just listening to the background noise there in your restaurant, it sounds like you're getting ready to move some.

Mr. DOWD: We're moving some.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Bashir Dowd, thank you very much. Good luck with the lunch crowd.

Mr. DOWD: Thank you.

CONAN: Bashir Dowd is with Gold Star Chili in Cincinnati. He's a grandson of one of the four founders of the chain, and he joined us from its original restaurant there in Cincinnati.

(Credits)

CONAN: The Iraqi National Assembly has just adjourned after receiving the draft constitution. There are three points yet to be resolved. They are to be discussed over the next three days. Stay tuned to NPR News for continuing coverage of the Iraqi Constitution.

In Washington, I'm Neal Conan, NPR News.

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