I still don’t know why I signed up for a chili cook-off competition.
Friends encouraged me, it helped that they swore I had one of the better chili recipes in the tri-cities area. The prize money was nice, but I was also worried my fame would sway the judges to award it to me. It’s hard to stay humble when you’re the star of the most popular sitcom in the world “Young Krandle” and you have written the biggest smash Broadway has ever seen “Grandma’s Unfortunate Secret.”
This year’s chili fest was especially noteworthy since the inventor of chili, Galbraith Q. Chilierton, would be one of the judges. That put all my fellow competitors on edge, knowing that the man whose baby this fine food was would hover over us all. I was making the chili my grandmother left me in her will. Grandmother Bible’s All Purpose Belly Buster, the chili that brings a smile to all who taste it, and used to offer a mild sense of euphoria before they outlawed the use of psychotropic drugs in the kitchen—we now just use more oregano.
Now this recipe has been in my family for generations, some of the steps seem old hat, but I’ve found if you skip any of them it just doesn’t taste right. The rules of the competition stated all the cooking must be done at the venue, so I had to show up a day early for my prep work. I rented a backhoe from Wally’s Rental Barn and drove it to the arena, digging up a two foot wide, two-foot deep hole underneath my station. I took a dutch oven, the one I would be cooking the chili in, and filled it with chunks of beef primal, seasonings, salt, and a little tomato paste—which turns into a rub you cover the meat with. You then cover place it in the hole you dug, cover it with dirt, and let it sit overnight.
The morning of the cook-off, I got up early to go to the arena to prepare. The morning always kicks off the competitive games for children. The most popular one is “Get the Fat Back From Hobo Joe.” This is a simple game, where a salt-cured section of pork fat is taped to beloved rail rider Hobo Joe. Hobo Joe gets a five-minute head start, and can’t leave the compound the competition is being held on. The first child to wrestle him to the ground and get the pork fat from him wins. He’ll leave clues as he runs around the arena, shouting “Hehehe! You can’t catch me, I’m full of my Corn Flakes today!”
As this goes on the cooking begins. Now, I’m not going to share my family’s beloved recipe with you, but I can tell you that most of your basic chili ingredients go into the dish. Naturally, I had to retrieve my ground meat first. It has to go straight from the dirt to the stove top. I was about halfway through cooking my chili when a hush fell upon the arena, from the distance double doors, a bright, almost blinding light shone into the room. He walked into the room with an air of importance, it was Galbraith Q. Chilierton himself.
Mr. Chilierton was given the entrance worthy of a king. Applause broke out as he walked down the aisle where the competitors were. Mr. Chilierton is 102, breaks wind constantly, but has the smile of a sweet baby. Seeing him in person at our little ole chili cook-off is one the true memories of my life I will tell my grandchildren about. After a long day of cooking and simmering, it was judging time. A bowl of my chili was taken to the secret “Lounge of Judgement” located underneath the bleachers.
Did I win the grand prize? I did not. In fact, Mr. Chilierton called my chili “a waste of human efforts.” Sad to say this has put the last nail in the coffin of my competitive chili career—I’m gonna leave it to the pros from now on. After all, the bill the arena sent me for digging a two-foot hole into their floor makes it all the less worth it. See you next week.