The ‘great’ chili cookoff

Columnist Bob Edwards and friends create a questionable pot of Festival chili

Me and Homer Jones and Big John Talley were out in the alley behind the Sure Shot Tavern, grabbing a quick smoke between tall cool ones. It was one of those few steamy hot days we get here in the Valley, and we all needed something to turn down the heat.

“Any of you guys going to Alpine Days?” Big John asked.

I quickly responded, “John, you know it’s called Festival at Mount Si now.” That could have produced a whole other discussion right there. Fortunately, it didn’t.

“I may wander down tween’ brewskis,” Homer Jones said. “Depending on the weather, of course.”

I observed that “Maybe we could think of something to do, some talent we have to share with our friends and neighbors.”

“Ha, there ya go Bob, this sounds like another of your crazy schemes. What do you have on your mind now?”

“Well,” says I, “Seems to me, we could enter that Chili Cookoff they have on Sunday. We could invite our compadres for support and see if we couldn’t win that top prize of 300 bucks. It would split up pretty nice between the three of us.

After some more serious discussion, we decided to go ahead and enter. Since none of us had the faintest idea of how to make chili, and since it was my idea, I was nominated for head cook. I asked Homer and Big John to come up with a catchy name for our chili and a name for our team.

The big day came and we went down bright and early to get set up and start cooking. Big John surprised me with a sign he had made proclaiming our chili’s name to be “Ol’ Rotgut Conception Chili.”

“Conception, where the blue blazes did that come from?” I asked Big John.

Big John, with his usual logic, replied, “I thought, like the Immaculate Conception, you know, only a one-time happening? I want to get any of those judges who have some of the faith to think that maybe we have some guidance from above, to vote for us.”

“What’s done is done,” was all I could say. “OK, Homer what did you come up with for a name for our team?”

Homer grinned as he unfolded his banner: “Three Blind Mice Chili Team.”

“Homer, explain that one to me,” I said.

“Well, I thought we didn’t know what we were doin’,” he replied. “Mostly after a night of celebrating, you can’t much see straight, and we’re just grabbin’ stuff to throw in this here cookin’ pot, not even looking at it.”

I’m sure there was some logic there somewhere. Besides, it was too late to argue.

We cut up veggies; celery, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, threw in some beans, and Homer dumped in some spicy powders and concoctions.

“What is all that, Homer?” I asked.

“Oh,” he replied, “I went down to the supermarket and anything that had ‘HOT’ on the label I bought.”

The public got the first taste and the first reviews were pretty bad. At least, I call spitting it out on the grass pretty bad. The other cooks went around tasting the other chilis, except ours. It seemed like no one wanted to taste our offering. So I got brave and gave it a taste, Ugh, I spit it out on the grass, too. Big John kept adding beer to it so it got right soupy, but it didn’t help the taste any.

At the official judging, for the prize, we didn’t win, or even place in the top three. But they did create a new category, just for us. They called it “Worst Chili Ever!” We did win that.

Afterward, we agreed that we didn’t down enough beers before we started to cook to really concoct a good pot of chili. We did have fun, played around, flirted a lot, and vowed to give it a go next year.

Except we’ll change the names some, so you won’t know who we are — kind of a traveling inconception.

• Bob Edwards lives in North Bend. E-mail him at