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And The Chili Winner Is ...
2004 Chili Cookoff

   It is 8 o'clock at Bali Hai Beach Resort. In just 30 minutes the 23 teams will light their fires and start cooking in the 13th Annual Chili Cookoff. The theme this year is "Hillbilly Chili."

   The cooking booths are small canvas shelters scattered among the trees, and look more like carnival sideshows than serious cooking platforms. I pass one booth decorated with fresh chilies; another with empty beer bottles.

   I walk around the grounds and speak to some of the contestants. "Hi!" I say to an American contestant. "How do you like your chances of winning today?"
   "Well Sir, pretty damned good," he says. "We have this secret recipe and the team has been practicing all week. We've got it down pat now and our chili is pretty damned good too."
   “So, you have cooked chili before?”
   He looked at me as if I had just popped up from Mars. “Sir, that is not a very sensible question. I am from Texas, the home of chili, and I have been cooking chili most of my life.”
   “Sorry, no offense, but I’m new to this stuff.”
   He patted me on the shoulder. “That’s OK Sir, but let me tell you that we aim to put our kettle to the mettle and today we will be the kings of spice.”
   "Do you have any secret ingredients?"
   "Shure do, Sir," he says. "But I am not at liberty to disclose that information. Comes under the Classified Information Act."
   "Sorry I asked," I say.
   "That's all right Sir, but we do things by the book. After we win today our recipe will be posted at the VFW and you can check it out there."
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