It was time for the Fourth Annual Company Chili Cookoff. Despite having been here for five years, I've never participated. The first year, I didn't have a good chili recipe that I could go to. I'd hate to stake my cooking reputation on something untried; I'm far to square for that. So I said that I would find a good recipe before the next year.
That was pretty much my excuse for the next three years, too. I made chili a couple of times at home, but they were nothing special. Why couldn't we have a contest where I knew I could knock their socks off? Let's have a chocolate pie contest! Or biscuits! Shrimp patties! These are things that I can do.
I was not planning on participating this year either. This year was a little special, because the guy who organizes the chili cookoff was leaving the company, and the event was schedule for his very last day. Earlier in the week, he sent out an email saying that the contest might be cancelled due to lack of entries. So of course I felt bad that there might not be a contest at all, and I gave in.
Our company is not big enough for it, but I wish there were multiple categories to compete in. We have one vegetarian dude, and he always brings a meatless version. But he never wins, because how can he? How can he hope to compete against other chilis which have two, sometimes three kinds of meat in them? I mean, if there were more vegetarians, he might have a shot. But there aren't, and so he doesn't.
I wish there was a category for no-meat, another one for one-meat, and finally a meat-tastic group. I knew from the beginning that I was not interested in buying sausage and steak tips and smoked pork. I mean, sure, if you're going to spend $30 at the butchers, then you can win the chili cookoff, but that didn't seem fair.
But whatever, I guess the fun is in participating. Or something. Josh once went to a chili restaurant that served some special Texas variety called Terlingua Chili. He raved about it, and I filed that fact away in my memory until I had to come up with a beef-only chili recipe that could compete with steak tips and sausage. Not that I actually believed it would be competitive, but when you have no chance, the best you can do is something totally different. Feel free to apply this philosophy to other areas of your life.
Okay, so I cheated a little. I cooked the ground beef in bacon grease. But I had the bacon anyway, and I used it to work on training Remix to "stay." She is bacon-motivated.
I thought my chili creation was fantastic. It has a soft and smoky flavor followed by a sneaky heat. That was the serrano peppers, which were simmered along with everything else, but then removed. I'd never cooked with serranos before, and I had to ask the produce manager which ones they were. Two serrano peppers at $1.99 a pound comes to four cents. I paid in cash.
I still knew that I was not going to win, but I at least felt like this was a solid entry. And I still had something of a chance: in addition to the taste contest, there is also a prize for the best-named chili. I guess I cheated on this part, too, because I googled the phrase "chili name pun" and the internet gave me "Chili Chili Bang Bang." Thank you, anonymous internet commenter! Then I spent far too much time making up a goofy poster to hang above my CrockPot. All the other slow cookers were more modern, with digital timers and removeable crocks. Mine looked like the one your mom gives you when you get your first apartment, which it was.
I hung the poster up in my cube, where it makes me giggle every time I look at it. Okay, I didn't win, but I did get a good recipe and a fun poster out of it. And also a valuable lesson about the value of participating. Or something.