Friday, July 4, 2008

First Annual COB Speicher Chili Cookoff.

I have to take a break from our regularly scheduled vacation programming to vent a little.

When I got back from vacation I was informed that there was going to be a chili cookoff here at the base and I had been signed up to represent the dept. Those of you who know me know that I was honored and excited to do so. I love to cook, and I love to cook chili. I have a huge chili pot and lots of spices here in Iraq with me.

I started prep a few days ago. I purchased steaks from the PX, took a couple of to-go boxes full of onion, tomato, jalapeño slices, and pinto beans from the DFAC, made sure I had beer (non-alcoholic of course!), and lined up my spices.

Yesterday, I diced up the steaks, seasoned the meat heavily with onion, garlic, cumin, and jalapeños, and let it sit overnight in the fridge to meld all together.

I fired up the grill at 4am this morning and started heating the pan.

The meat went into a little hot olive oil to brown, got stirred around a bit every few minutes, then in went the tomato, more onion, a load spices, and more jalapeño.

Once that was simmering away nicely, I added beer, V8 juice (no tomato sauce available), and tossed on the lid.

I checked the progress periodically, made seasoning / liquid adjustments, and stirred, stirred, stirred. Around 10:30 AM, I tasted the concoction, declared it good, and called the concoction "Chili."

The judging was held at our area offices on the north side of the camp. A small group of emissaries was dispatched with me to escort the pot via an unreported route. We arrived safely at 11:30 and turned in our entry. The tasting began at noon sharp.

Judges tasting chili while spectators watch and hydrate. (It was 129 deg F here today.)

Judges about to announce the winner(s).

I knew I was in trouble when the late-entry canned chili from the HSE dept placed third. The lady who won first place is a very nice lady, but her chili was reminiscent of spaghetti sauce. Delicious, mildly spicy spaghetti sauce, but spaghetti sauce nonetheless. Here she is with my... I mean her trophy.

The first place trophy.

I know that I can't help that the judges were milquetoast Yankees who's lips get blistered by black pepper, but I still sat there feeling like I should have won. This wasn't a superior chili that beat me, but inferior taste buds!

After the official judging, people kept coming up to me telling me that they thought my chili should have won. As I stood beside my pan dishing out bowl after bowl of delicious Texas Red, I heard people telling their friends, "Hey, try this guy's chili! It's the real deal!" or "As hot as this is, I want to eat more! How do you do that?" The flattery was humbling.

I was standing down by the other end of chili row when I heard someone yell, "Time to go! We're out of Chili!"

What? We're not out of chili. There are still people standing in line. Let me look.

Sure enough. About 1/2 left in each pot. Let's go check out the winner's pot.

A little less than 1/2 a pot left over.

"What do you guys mean we're out of chili?"
"No, Joel. YOUR chili. It's all gone."

Second place, my behind. ;)

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