Chili cook-off as­sign­ment gets chilly an­niver­sary re­ac­tion

The Ambler Gazette - - LETTERS -

Mix­ing a chili cook-off with one’s wed­ding an­niver­sary is pretWy PuFK WKH WH[WERRN GHfinLWLRn RI “poor judg­ment.” How­ever, as has been painfully ev­i­dent in this space over the years, I am not im­mune from step­ping in it up to my an­kles in the area of “poor judg­ment.”

The Blonde Ac­coun­tant and I cel­e­brated our fiIWK wHGGLnJ Dn­nLYHrVDry last week­end, and it just hap­pened to fall on the same date as the Fourth An­nual Chili Cook-off and Pie Eat­ing Con­test in Jenk­in­town.

Now one might think that these two oc­ca­sions would have noth­ing to do with each other. And one would be cor­rect. Ex­cept in this in­stance. A few days ear­lier, I had re­ceived an email from Jenk­in­town Mayor Ed Fo­ley about the chili cook-off.

“Mike, would you be in­ter­ested in be­ing a judge for the event? It’s only about an hour’s com­mit­ment from 3 to 4 p.m. on Satur­day.”

I re­sponded: “Ed, I wouldn’t mind be­ing a judge, but Satur­day is my wed­ding an­niver­sary. I have a date with The Blonde Ac­coun­tant for din­ner at 6:45 p.m. If I can do 3 to 4 p.m. and then be on my way home in time to get all gussied up for my date, then I’d be happy to judge.”

See, I have a weak­ness for chili. The prob­lem is, I like it, but it doesn’t like me. I es­pe­cially love chili­dogs, but for the past sev­eral years, ev­ery time I have chili or chili­dogs, I go into it with the un­der­stand­ing that I will likely need to be se­questered in the garage and away from po­lite so­ci­ety for a few days.

In ad­di­tion, my chili-eat­ing days have been se­verely cur­tailed over the years be­cause I do not have the cast-iron stomach that I had in my youth. While most peo­ple like to sprin­kle cheese or pep­pers or other things on their chili, these days, the only ac­cou­trement I’m able to sprin­kle on my chili is antacid. Yummy.

The other thing about chili is that I like mine rather plain. Meat, beans, chili pow­der, tomato paste … that’s about all I need. I’m per­fectly happy with a store-bought brand be­cause I am not fond of big chunks of tomato, onions and var­i­ous part of the kitchen sink that some chili-mak­ers like to put into their home­made recipes.

For all these rea­sons — and the fact that it was my an­niver­sary — I re­ally had no busi­ness judg­ing a chili cook-off con­test that day.

But the poor judg­ment gene is per­ma­nently em­bed­ded into my brain, so nat­u­rally, I ap­proached The Blonde Ac­coun­tant about the pos­si­bil­ity of tak­ing a hour out of our an­niver­sary day and driv­ing to Jenk­in­town for a community event.

“Hey hon, Ed Fo­ley asked me to judge a chili cook-off on Satur­day for about an hour. Is that OK? Our din­ner reser­va­tion isn’t un­til 6:45 p.m. I should be home in plenty of time to get ready,” I said.

“Who is this guy?” she an­swered, like she was pre­pared to drop a dime and put a con­tract out on him. “And you’re go­ing to be eat­ing chili? On our an­niver­sary?” (In the in­ter­est of full dis­clo­sure, the last part of that quote has been para­phrased be­cause what she re­ally said can’t ac­tu­ally be printed in a fam­ily news­pa­per.)

“He’s mayor of Jenk­in­town. Grand Poohbah, Big Cheese over there,” I said. “And I’ll only take small bites so I don’t ruin my din­ner.”

I love community events like these and I at­tend a lot of them when my sched­ule per­mits. The Blonde Ac­coun­tant re­al­izes that it’s part of the job of be­ing the lo­cal news­pa­per ed­i­tor to ac­tu­ally be out in the community, so she didn’t have a ma­jor prob­lem with me go­ing to Jenk­in­town.

Still, she was trou­bled by the chili as­pect of this par­tic­u­lar event given my past chal­lenges with chili.

So I went, did my job as a judge and took small bites of all the chili cook-off en­tries. For the record, I liked them all, so for those of you in the con­test who did not win, you can blame the other two judges. I will ad­mit though, that the over­all win­ner did have a sign on the ta­ble that read, “Keeps you reg­u­lar.” Given my his­tory with chili, I could see where the other con­tes­tants might con­sider that an un­fair ad­van­tage.

The bot­tom line, though, was that I suf­fered no ill ef­fects from any of the chili I ate at the cookoff. I did not have one stomach prob­lem the rest of the evening, a fact that I at­tribute to the qual­ity of the chili recipes that I tasted in Jenk­in­town. In that re­gard, that makes all the con­tes­tants in the cook-off win­ners in my book.

In the end, I wished I could have stayed longer and eaten more of the var­i­ous chili recipes at the event. But sug­gest­ing to The Blonde Ac­coun­tant that we go to a chili cook-off in­stead of a fancy res­tau­rant for our an­niver­sary din­ner would have been in­cred­i­bly stupid.

Even the poor judg­ment gene in my brain wouldn’t en­cour­age that level of id­iocy.

Mike Morsch is ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of Mont­gomery Me­dia and au­thor of the book, “Danc­ing in My Un­der­wear: The Sound­track of My Life.” He can be reached by call­ing 215-542-0200, ext. 415 or by email at msquared35@ya­hoo.com. This col­umn can also be found at www.mont­gomerynews.com.

Mem­bers of the Tro­jan Times news­pa­per staff, from left, Lind­say An­der­son, An­drew Brindell, Nick Gude and Josh Yoon sit ready to do some Hal­loween Mad Libs with at­ten­dees.

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