Monday Musings: Chili Weekend, Victory, and Recovery

There was no review on Friday, partly because I haven’t been reading a lot, and so haven’t finished anything, and partly because I was busy prepping for our first cooking chili cook off of the summer. The week before a cook off is always busy, with far too much to do. But it got done, as always.

The cook off was on Saturday, June 1, right up the road in Hudson, NH. It was the NH State cook off, and one of our favorites. For one thing, the site is about 4 miles from our house, and that makes it a nice one for us. No long drive, no hotel stay, and we sleep at home. Of course, the BaldMan is still not up to full speed after the partial knee replacement, so we did a scaled down set up, with  just one canopy, and no fancy decorations. He cooked red only,  and I did red and salsa. We know the organizers, so they were nice enough to save us the
“handicapped” spot- the one closest to the judges tent. We brought along the ice pack thing for his knee, and he was able to sit with it most of the day. Still, I did end up doing most of the physical work. Stephanie came about noon, and she helped out a lot, as well, especially when it came time to break down and load up the car. The help was very  much appreciated.

But, really, I know what you are really asking- how did we do? My salsa, which I thought was pretty good, went nowhere. It got zero points. Judges comments said it was mild, too watery, and too tomato-y. I was going for more liquid this time, since I had been getting comments that it was too dry previously. I guess I went a bit too far on that one. In red, we did a good  bit better. The BaldMan got second place. I won. I beat him by one point. One point. I did that once before in NH, in salsa. That win was extra good for several reasons. One, it was a win, and that qualifies me to cook at Worlds in Palm Springs, CA in October. Two, it was a win at NH State, and that means I represent my own state at Worlds. I don’t know if every cook really, really wants to be there for their own state, but I’ve wanted to ever since I started cooking competitively. Plus, it will be nice not to have to explain the signage at Worlds. They hang a sign on your booth that has the cook off you won to qualify. But, of course, the people walking around don’t know that, so they will ask you things like: “So, where in Vermont do you live?” And then you have to explain that you don’t live in VT, that was where you qualified. This year, I can say: “Yes, I do live in NH!” And the third reason is that this is very likely to be the last year we are cooking. We have been  doing a fair number of cook offs as Chief Judge (him) and Scorekeeper (me). The couple that run the judging at most of the cook offs are most likely moving to Arkansas before the cook offs next year, and we will be taking over a more cook offs. We want to  do it, but it won’t leave us time to cook. So, it’s good to be going out with a red qualifier.

NH State is a really good cook off, and it is for a really good cause. It is held across from the Alvirne High School in Hudson, NH, and benefits the Alvirne Friends of Music. The school has a wonderful music department, and the kids really work hard. The jazz band plays at the  cook off, and if you did not know, you would not believe these are high school kids. They are really, really good. It is definitely a highlight of the day when the jazz band takes the stage.

As much as we enjoy the cook off, and as well as we did, it was an exhausting day. It was hot and humid in the morning, and then just hot. We are in an open field, with no shade except the canopy we set up, with propane camp stoves running  all day. The heat really just saps all the energy out of you, and by the time we were ready to leave, we were all hot, sticky, and exhausted. We often go out with some friends after the  cook off, but with the BaldMan’s knee tired and needing resting, and just general tiredness, we decided to just order pizza and go home. It was a good decision.  We showered and changed, ate some pizza, and collapsed. We were in bed before 11. And slept for close to 11 hours. I woke up feeling better on Sunday, but still not completely recovered. that will probably take a few days. I’m not complaining. We love cooking chili, and we love NH State, and will miss a lot of things about cooking once we aren’t doing it anymore.