The Chili Cook-Off


We have church functions from time to time, and I like them.  Except for the preaching.  I like the preacher but not so much the preaching.  No wonder I'm always confused.  Just the same with protest songs, which I universally enjoy, but the protesters themselves.......just can’t stomach them.

It was the time of year when the church is raising money by squeezing blood from turnips.  I'm one of the turnips.  My wife had the idea of combining a Celtic service, which was sure to attract lots of people, with a chili cook-off.  The idea was roundly applauded, and plans were made and committees formed.  It was the best of times.  Hands were raised and recipes, both secret and overt, were plotted.  Vegetarian.  Bison.  Turkey.  Venison.  Betty Crocker.  Groundhog.  While the concept belonged to my wife (who would expect a chili cook-off in Ohio, after all?), she did not wish to participate in the competition itself, or so she said.

On the eve of the competition, my wife decided that she wanted to cook.  She made a pot of what is known here as Green Chicken Chili.  She's an English Major, and insists that it's Green Chili Chicken because there are no green chickens, but that really doesn't stop anyone from calling it Green Chicken Chili.  It's chicken cut into inch and a half cubes, give or take, fried briefly, spiced a little, and then simmered in green enchilada sauce.  It's really good.   But it's not a secret.  It's not particularly difficult, it requires absolutely no chopping of fresh cilantro, hunting, or even very much of getting the kitchen messy—it's just cubed chicken swimming in green Mexican sauce.  It doesn't even really have to be enchilada sauce—any green Mexican sauce will do.  If we ever actually find a green chicken, we can use white sauce and still call it Green Chicken Chili.

The Wife wrote a nice little note to go with the Green Chicken Chili saying that it was not made for the competition, but it was nevertheless placed into the contest by the powers that were in attendance.  The congregation sampled the assembled chilis.  Votes were cast.  The cooks all had to say a little something before the winner was selected.  A famous chili maker in these parts gave an oration for the ages—the chili was made with this meat and that spice in precise percentages, it was cooked on three separate days with mandatory cooling each overnight and finally topped off with, yes, fresh chopped cilantro.  Tasted like Nalley's to me, but I'm a cretin.  Another was made with venison burger, the source of which was shot by the maker of the chili with his great-grandfather's hunting rifle that had been used in the Great War when we had the Hun on the Run.  Maybe he ought to use some cilantro next time.  And so it went.  Recipes handed down generation to generation.  Members of the Daughters of the Revolution making revolutionary chili from a recipe originally brought from Mother England and found in tatters on Plymouth Rock.

Let me say this about North East Ohio.  If it's not garlic, it's not really a spice.  These are the blandest people this side of Minnesota Lutherans.  The chilis were, generally, sort of marinara with extra meat.  Toss a little spaghetti in it and who would know?

My Bride's chili won.  By a landslide.  She faked embarrassment, but I know that just under the surface, she was screaming “YIPPEE!!!!!”.  Accepting the Blue Ribbon, she said that it was really easy and she would share the recipe with everyone.

I've decided that next year, I'll concoct a story about this Green Chicken Chili.  It'll be Enchanted Forest Chili made from Unicorn rump roast simmered slowly over an open twisted filbert flame when the moon is full……….seasoned only with spices gathered by genuine San Francisco hippies during the fall equinox……….

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