Texas is such a unique state in so many ways, and the fact that we celebrate Texas Independence Day is definitely one of them.

For those of you who need a brush-up on the state’s history, we were our own country (well, a republic) for about a decade, starting March 2, 1836 until the winter of 1846-1847, when we were annexed into the United States.

Texas students spent an entire year studying Texas history, and the rest of us who come from elsewhere get to learn about it in bits and pieces, which is why it was nice to meet K.R. Wood last year.

Wood, aka "Camp Cookie," is a sweet gentleman who has made it his life’s work to keep alive the vibrant history of Texas, especially that of the 19th century when the Texas Revolution and the famed cattle drives took place. Over the course of more than half a dozen albums, he covers everything from the 13-day siege on the Alamo, which started right about now in 1836 and ended just after the declaration of independence was signed, to the Battles of Goliad and San Jacinto and less horrific affairs like the heyday of the cattle drives, which saved the Texas economy after the Civil War.

In today’s food section, you can read all about Wood’s love of Texas history and why he thinks it’s important for us to continue celebrating Texas Independence Day all these years later.

Oh, and he shared his pretty great recipe for chuck wagon chili, which we made last week over a campfire at his Manchaca home.

Camp Cookie Chuck Wagon Chili

You can use any combination of beef, pork, venison or buffalo in this chili from K.R. Wood.

1 1/2 lb. beef, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 lb. pork, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 lb. ground pork

1 1/2 tsp. salt

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. Mexican oregano

2 medium onions, diced

1 cup sliced jalapeños

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 (29-oz.) can tomato sauce

1 (10-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

3/4 cup to 1 cup chili powder

2 Tbsp. red chili pepper flakes

1/4 cup cocoa

Masa, for thickening (about 2 Tbsp. flour mixed with 2 Tbsp. water)

Fritos, grated cheese, chopped raw onions and cilantro, for garnish

In a large cast iron Dutch oven or pot, brown all the meat and drain off some of the grease. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Serves 12.

— K.R. Wood