There’s nothing quite like a good, old fashioned Texas chili cook-off. Other than Mardi Gras, with all its flash and debauchery, where else can you eat and drink too much, watch an impromptu female belching contest, and carry on an intelligent conversation with a guy wearing a ten gallon hat with a stuffed duck on top and wrapped in an apron that reads, “Hillary in ’08 My Ass!”
From Amarillo to San Angelo, and Schulenberg to the world famous Terlingua championship, the spectacle is a sensory overload of epic proportions. There are wannbe cowgirls in their tight Wranglers and Tony Lama boots strolling the grounds in search of a free, no-strings attached Bud or Shiner Bock. All are filled to the brim with more howdies, hons and darlin’s than the law should permit, but golly-gosh-darn it’s fun to be a part of the goin’s on.
A cook team Captain is part wizard, part chef and total master of his domain within the boundaries marked off by 100-foot long strings of Miller Lite pennants. Within those confines can be anything from a simple propane stove and lawn chair, to a fully loaded replica of a western-style covered wagon with painted canvas and all the fixin’s for gallons of beanless chili. That’s right . . . no beans in Texas chili pardner!
When it comes to judging chili, there is one rule to live by . . . never, never, never judge any round of the competition below finals. This bit of wisdom was passed on to me by an old codger who rode the trail for many years before passing away on the range while driving a herd of cattle to Fort Worth some years back . . . Not really!
The first time I judged an early round of chili it almost killed me and I spent days popping Pepto-Bismol like candy. You never know what’s in those homemade recipes, so it’s best to let others take the bullet for you when possible.
They say if you’re gonna play in Texas you gotta have a fiddle in the band, but the pickers on-stage this afternoon were mighty fine without one. I heard about all of George’s exes live in Texas, then the next minute REO Speed Wagon would keep on rollin’ all the way to sweet home Alabama and on to Luckenbach, Texas with Waylon, Willie and the boys. It was a spicy musical mishmash to rival the ingredients in any award winning chili pot.
I’ve lived in the Lone Star State half my life and consider myself a Texan. I’m one of those transplants who proudly proclaim, “I wasn’t born in Texas. I just got here as fast as I could.” This big old Republic has a lot to offer, but I have to admit that it’s the quirky, off-the-wall circumstances and characters I find here, like those at a down home Texas chili cook-off, that regularly remind me why I love it here . . . God Bless Texas!
For a comprehensive calendar of chili cook-offs sanctioned by the Chili Appreciation Society International, visit www.chili.org. You won’t regret it . . . unless you judge something less than finals!