Saturday was a busy one for me, running between a volleyball tournament in Goessel and a chili cook-off at the county lake.
For the first time, I was at the cook-off without being there to cover it. After several years of thinking I should enter the contest, I finally did.
A couple of days before the contest, I started making my chili at home using a slight variation on my dad’s recipe. I’ve never made so much chili at once before, and I had to split it into two batches.
I ran into a slight snag Saturday morning when I moved the chili into a borrowed cooker large enough for the whole amount. Although it had a knob for multiple settings, it appeared to be either completely off or on high heat with no in between. I found a way to work around that issue, but it still led to my chili cooking down more than I wanted it to.
Another snag came when I got to the cook-off, and my initial spot kept losing electricity. I moved to a different location, getting electricity directly from the lake hall.
Neither issue was a major problem, and moving from one spot to the other resulted in my booth being next to Mike Crane, vice president of Friends of Marion County Lake. Chatting with him, I got a couple of story ideas for future papers.
I didn’t win any prize or trophy, but I still had a lot of fun. Everybody had nice things to say about my chili, and I even got a few votes, including one from a past champion (I was especially proud to get that vote). Quite a few people had questions about my chili, too. Explaining what all went into it was half the fun.
The scheduling worked out perfectly. If it had been a day earlier, it would have been too warm for chili. Who wants to go to a chili cook-off when the temperature is in the mid-80s? But a storm front came through Friday night, cooling things off so a light jacket was right at the start. By the end of the cook-off, a long-sleeve T-shirt was comfortable.
The only thing I would do differently if I enter the contest again next year (which seems likely) is to test the cooker’s temperature control before the day of the contest.