This is the year after the Great Chili Disaster. Last year I just knew I had the winning chili. I had spent two days chopping, sautéing, seasoning, and perfecting the biggest batch I could fit into the huge (and heavy) chicharrone pot. It was filled to the brim and made an impressive showing. I set it on the deluxe gas-ring burner which sat on the plastic folding table. What a visual it was. As I admired the brimming pot of beanless chili, it started to foam. And stink. I froze, grabbed the arm of my helper and said, “Oh no. I think she’s gonna blow!”
Next thing we knew, the bubbling cauldron was sliding toward the front edge of the table. The heat and weight of the whole shebang melted through the table and was on a slow slide toward the floor. In seemingly slow motion, several people came running and broke the fall before the entire contents spilled across the floor of the competition hall. It took three of us to haul that puppy outside and run it to the edge of the hillside to dump the contents overboard before the stench permeated the entire building!
There was nothing left to do but swig some tequila with beer chasers and dance to the live band playing to the outside crowd. I had publicly announced I was hanging up my pots and pans.
People took bets. “She’s not a quitter,” they said. “She’ll be back, you’ll see.”
Right up until the last minute, I was determined to not compete. And then it happened; my good friend and editor, Bob, said, “Look, I have a good chili recipe, and it sounds like fun. I’ll even sponsor it. You can’t go out like that. Let’s do it.”
“Roca Caliente shall ride again!” Yee ha! My trusty teammate, Iris, said she would make new costumes, and with Bob taking on the Chef role, all I had to do was shake my maracas … well, alrighty then. Let’s go!
The whole point is to raise funds for “Hogar de Vida”, an Atenas home for abandoned and abused children, and have fun at the same time. Never did the thought of winning a trophy enter my mind. I am humbled to say my team took second place in the Judge’s category for best chili and third place in the Showmanship category. Of course, the real winners are the kids of Hogar de Vida. The final results have yet to be tallied, but rumor has it the event raised a hefty amount and a ton ‘o fun was had by all.
I am grateful to Iris and Bob for the friendship, expertise, and faith in carrying Roca Caliente to the winners’ table. There is a secret to Chef Bob’s chili which shall remain a secret. I’ll never tell. Who knows what will happen next year!