Ground beef sizzles. Onions and tomatoes diced. Crock pots click to warm. And the midnight oil hisses on its last drops.
All in the name of chili.
For the 11th Annual COESS Chili Cook-Off on the campus of WTAMU, that was our Wednesday night.
The perfect chili takes about 6 to 8 hours to slow cook. Add a dash of caress, two bottles of Shiner Bock, New Mexican Hatch Green Chiles and a pinch of cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon. Well, at least one of ours included the elusive spice into the ingredient list. Yes we made two batches, both distinct and both fitting to the personality and tastes of the creator.
Hosts of the morning show, The Black Tie Affair, each made their specialty. The Great Dane made a bold, deep, little spicy smoke and sweet chili, complete with Texas native Shiner Bock and cinnamon. Reverend T went with a different approach. Broth-soaked potatoes popped over the palette followed by the salty robustness of simmered ground beef. Finally Mr. Green approaches, the Hatch Green Chiles bringing crisp flavor up front with slow heat in the back where it lingers on your tongue.
Sorry, I had to wipe drool from my keyboard.
Our entries were deadlocked to win. We set up our table that Thursday, ready to WOW! the masses.
About 15 teams, ranging from student organizations to faculty and staff to the University Police Department, lined up around the pedestrian mall. Ribbons and tablecloths popped in the wind. Signs and flags begged for consumers to EAT HERE! and, more importantly, VOTE FOR US! Fritos, shredded cheese, crackers and Indian Chapati bread accessorized the tables . . . and lunch. And the chili, oh the chili, wafting along, steamy tendrils dragging eaters to the best chili around.
I guess our tendrils were broken.
We had the boombox out, rocking the station for your generation, 91.1 FM. We had special show posters promoting the diverse music we offer. We had food. Free, mind you. And more importantly, we had free food.
But need not fear. Classes let out. College students learned of free chili, a change from their coffee and Ramen diet. Faculty and staff migrated to the festivities. No doubt others from Canyon joined in on the grazing. Swarms of taste-testers, lip-lickers, and seconds-wanters circled the concrete, stacking up at one table then shuffling to the next; a slow-moving whirlpool of head nods and “mmmms”. For an hour, a live band rocked the stage. Eager fingers grasped little tiny cups and little tiny spoons and scooped hearty sample-sized servings of ground beef and assorted secret ingredients into drooling mouths.
The crowd thickened. The chili thinned.
We ran out. Then another group. And another. Then we were all done, with the masses demanding more. But us cooks wanted something different. Trophies.
Out of all the categories – People’s Choice, President’s Choice, Best Table (Buffalo Spirit), Best Chili Accompaniment, 3rd place, 2nd place and Grand Champion – we won a whopping….. none of them.
Oh well, next year.
Honestly, the loss upset us but we weren’t out there solely for prizes and bragging rights. Okay, maybe some of us. Yet, for the majority, we wanted camaraderie, togetherness and belonging. We want our name out there. We want 91.1 FM a preset on everyone’s care radio. We want the KWTS Live Stream App a staple on all cell phones.
Dream big. Start small. Cook chili.