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It’s Chili Time!

February 5th, 2011

Fixin's!

Fixin's!

This week, I am entering two different competitive chili cooking events. Tomorrow’s at church will be won by virtue of how many people pay for a taste of my chili. The prize at the annual chili-off at work (which I won two years ago and thus began slacking off) is awarded based on averaging the rankings given by the staff. In either case, it’s a chance for me to win a cooking contest - something that is slightly crazy considering that I mostly only cook for me and I rotate about six meals in total.

My base recipe came from my mom. The first time I made it, I had a tactical error and added a tablespoon of salt instead of the required teaspoon because the recipe card said tps and not tsp (my own fault though - I should have recognized the transposed letters). Since then, I’ve experimented - adding more chili powder and garlic and, recently, frozen corn for color and sweetness - and now I feel like it’s really my chili.

I suppose you think something is yours when you can make it without a recipe. I know what I need and how much without pulling out my master cookbook. And, honestly, for anything I make that’s more than “add cheese,” this may be the only recipe I can say that about. When my mother met my father, so the story goes, one of the few things she could cook was spaghetti sauce (she is now a wonderful, and very adventurous, cook who loves discovering new things for her massive recipe file). And that sauce is really good. It’s a meat-based tomato sauce, cooked slowly with wine added that gives it a richness. When I was leaving for college, I asked for the recipe and she said, “There isn’t one! I just pull together whatever tomato cans are in the pantry!” She ended up writing something down, but it still said: tomato sauce or paste or soup, what’s on hand. Mom’s spaghetti is all the more special because it’s hers, and it can never truly be mine.

That’s OK! I have my award-winning chili (which I don’t make for family, because it’s too spicy). For the record, tomorrow’s chili will be vegetarian, because every last person I asked last Sunday said, “You can make it with meat, but then I won’t eat it.” Tuesday, I could go crazy and make a new recipe - to stay on top, you have to innovate. I was going to make a Cincinnati-style chili, but I won’t eat tomato sauce with cinnamon, so I wouldn’t be able to give my pot a high enough ranking to win. I’ll make “my” chili, and be very happy eating it!

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