Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Down on the Farm: The Chili Cook-off

It started out any old Saturday.  I was visiting with a neighbor when she mentioned she had to go and finish up her chili for the Birdseye Branch Chili Cook-off.  That was today?  I had totally forgotten about it.  I looked at the clock.  I had a half hour to get my then family of seven ready, cook my chili, and get to the cook-off.

I kicked it into high gear.  I yelled to Richard down at the barn that we had to leave in 25 minutes, got my chili simmering, changed my clothes, changed my little girl's clothes, layed out my little boy's clothes, directed my older kids to get on their good clothes, fixed 3 girls' hair, combed down 2 boys' hair, jumped in the car and was only 10 minutes late! 

By this time, the judges were very involved in tasting various chilis.  I quickly added my pot of chili to those already there, scooped some up in cups for the 4 judges, and then sat down to wait.  It was at this time I began listening to the other cooks in the room. 

"I've been slow-cooking my stew meat since yesterday!"

"I started my beans soaking yesterday, and my chili has been simmering since this morning."

"My chili had to simmer overnight!  That's part of our secret family recipe."

As I was listening to these comments, I slowly moved to the outside of the group, hoping to avoid a question about when I began my chili.  Who knew you had to start it the day before?  Mine took 10 minutes, and that included the simmer time!  Out of the eight or so cooks there, this morning was the latest any of them started their competing chilis.

I was embarrassed to have thrown mine together so fast and bring it to a cook-off where apparently, I was out of the "know" on how to cook "real" chili.

The judges were huddled as the ticking of the clock sounded loud in my ears.  I was trying to look very  involved in my two-year-old's conversation on eating paper so that I could avoid any questions or comments directed my way, especially about the particulars of my recipe.

The judges stood up and began with the fourth-place winner.  Applauds sounded as the cook walked quickly to the front to collect her award.  Third-place followed suit.  As each winner was given their trophy, they gave a quick synopsis of the "secret" to their concoction.  Both mentioned, as if taunting me with their remarks, how much time they had put into their own great recipe.

"And the second-place chili goes to Melanie..."

I sat for the briefest moment while these words sank in and then hurried up to get the runner-up prize.  Everyone was looking at me expectantly, waiting for the words of wisdom I would share to help them improve their kitchen skills to the point of my culinary cook-off expertise.  I stammered out, "Time... and corn!"  Nobody had to know that by "time", I meant "It didn't take much."

My fans applauded my brief answer as if that is exactly what they were expecting.  The judges went on to announce the first-place entry, (which just so happened to be the one that had been slow-roasting her stew meat since yesterday.)

I really didn't deserve the grand award that I received, but after all, there were no rules on how to make a competing  chili.  So maybe I did deserve that award.  After all, time-saving tips are worth their weight in gold.

And so, for three years now, I have kept my winning recipe a secret.  (I really just didn't want to be stoned when my fellow chili cook-off competitors found out I started my chili 20 minutes before I got to the event.)
I reveal that secret today. 

Mexi-Chili, (as it was called for the cook-off) or Taco Soup

1 lb. hamburger
1/4 to 1/2 envelope of taco seasoning
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can red beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn
Grated cheese, optional
Sour cream, optional
Tortilla chips, or Fritos

Crumble hamburger and brown; salt and pepper to taste; sprinkle taco seasoning over cooked hamburger.  Add cans of beans, tomatoes, and corn, using all juices.  (Various canned beans can be used.)  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Can garnish with cheese and sour cream.  Eat with chips.

Looking back, did I really deserve to win second-place for my fast-fix dish?  Probably not.  But in reality, when you have fifteen minutes before your husband is going to be home from work and want dinner, and you haven't yet thought of what that dinner will be, whose chili are you going to think of?


  1. You had me laughing so hard!! This is perfect!! I guarantee your chili did deserve that award and I think it is awesome that you got it!! Time is EVERYTHING with a houseful of munchkins to care for:)
    I love this story and I'm sure I will love this chili recipe!! Thanks!

  2. Great story! Going to try the recipe as well!

    I'm a new follower from the Weekend Sit & Relax Blog Hop! Please stop on by and follow me at http://www.mommydigger.com and say hello :)

  3. Haha. My hubby loves to eat hot chili foods so this might be a great dish for him. I might as well try this and hopefully I could get things right. It's good that your family enjoyed the cook out.

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  4. I think you deserved it! And honestly, if you can make it delicious in much less time, that's even better. If I had to choose the same dish out of two recipes, and one was overnight, and one was 20 minutes, I'd pick the 20 minutes one. I need to save time!! lol

  5. I think you deserved the award just for making it there! I'm impressed anyway and let's face it, your recipe is far more realistic!

    You are a wonderful story teller.

  6. Yummy! great story. You are super-mom!!!

  7. Perfect story! I am a new follower from SRW blog hop. Looking forward to reading more!

  8. Very funny, what ever it takes. You should here how I make enchilladas and the kids and most adults love it. If interested in how it is made just drop me a note and I will give you my not so secret recipe.

    I am following you via SRW blog hop. Please follow me.



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  10. LOL! I love that your quick fix was rated so highly. Just goes to show that the simple things are often the best!

    Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro.


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