Monday, October 5, 2009

The Chili Tasting Contest that Wasn't

I do lots of volunteer work for our township committees here in Springfield Township, Bucks County and for the most part, its fun and a great learning experience. One of the things I take part in is our Community Day, of which I chair the committee. I’ve finally decompressed from this year’s event and can write a bit more for the blog now that the autumn season is upon us!

This is an enormous undertaking and although it can have its ups and downs, my committee is absolutely superb. I’ve been on other committees, volunteered at other non-profits, but this group of folks is a dream to work with. There has never been a truer example of teamwork than I am experiencing with this group of six others that work with me.

One of our goals is to give back to the community. We collect food for a local pantry, held a silent auction of about 35 items and had our police department take time in a dunk tank, all for charity.

Since I’m vegetarian and wanted the Springtown Volunteer Fire Company who does our food for the event to have something for those of us that don’t eat meat…I offered my Famous Vegetarian Chili. It sold like gangbusters and sold out…I now offer it every year as the alternative for the former carnivores who need some other option. The Fire Company gets the money, vegetarians who are typically forgotten get to eat something really yummy and even some die hard carnivores take a bowl for lunch and we all win.

Last year, one of our fire police who is now on my committee with her husband (also a fire police & fire fighter) mentioned she had always wanted to do a chili contest to raise funds for the fire company. After some discussion, we decided upon something a bit less elaborate than a chili cook-off, since the contestants would have to make their own chili at such an event and we didn’t have the staff/volunteers to run that.

We came up with a Chili Tasting Contest. Not bad…they’d bring their slow cookers with chili already heated and needing to be plugged into electric. That was the tricky part…we could only accommodate 20 pots on the electric at this facility where we hold our event. We would have it judged and then sell the bowls for $1 each for the benefit of the fire company who was already selling food for our event out of the kitchen at the facility.

Well, the day before the big event, my one committee member who is our ‘electrical wizard’ and was an electrical engineer in a former life before retiring had two huge electric panels he set up in anticipation of a windfall of slow cookers.

I stopped at the Dollar Store and purchased half a dozen ladles, spoons, bowls and even a bottle of Pepto Bismol for the event.

The big day came and we were ready for the onslaught with chili registrations, rules and judging forms.

One pot of the Anything Goes variety showed up. Yup, you heard it right. One, lonely pot of chili.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about one pot. I’m not complaining at all. We were happy with that one pot of what I hear was a delicious, hearty, chili from a local epicurean who made his own Adobo sauce for it. It was this single contestant I felt bad for. And the local fire company for whom we wished to support with the proceeds.

Pat Bowersock, a great friend and fellow foodie won’t mind me mentioning his name here as he’s been featured in the local newspapers for his cooking and other food-related topics brought the chili and said he had worked for a couple weeks on the different aspects of this recipe.

As a transplant to Arizona, Pat learned to make authentic Southwest chili using the regional spices and herbs found there. He later brought them back home with him to Pennsylvania to replicate the flavors of the land where chili and deep, robust, spicy flavors have been present for centuries.

Well, of course Pat was the only winner of the Chili Tasting Contest, despite the fact that there was no formal judging and our member who had the idea had organized some donations for the contestants and judges thought Pat ought to get something for his efforts. She unveiled a basket of spices and herbs she had put together from The Larder in Doylestown. His eyes lit up and he swooped in to see what was there and now his pantry is full!

So, the Chili Tasting Contest that Wasn’t turned out pretty good for Pat. The Fire Company sold his next to mine and he offered an idea for next year, chili dogs! Wonder if I can talk him into it?

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