The Community that Cooks Chilli Together…

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Yes, Jim and I are in Mexico once again. Theoretically, I am preparing for facilitating my writing retreat here in February, but let’s face it we are here to get out of the cold and rain of Vancouver and come home to our southern community.

I love it here for multiple reasons and Jim and I are starting to get inquiries of how we pull this off every year and how they can do it to, so maybe we will have to create a fun seminar about this.

DSCN3159Meanwhile, here we are in our little winter paradise, but this year is hotter than usual. Lucky me that this just happens to coincide with my getting hot flashes. I have both our ceiling fans going right now, but it’s not bad enough to want air conditioning on, but thankfully it is cooler this week than last. It forced me to learn my latest Spanish word, abanico, which is a hand fan. I tend to fall in love with 4-syllable Spanish words. My first year here it was desayuno, which means breakfast. Right now, my mantra during my hot flashes is abanico, abanico, abanico. I now have a few pretty Mexican Abanicos for 30 pesos each.

So, amid all this heat you wouldn’t think I would be looking forward to eating a ton of chilli, right? But I always am. Let DSCN3121me tell you a little bit about one of the events of the season here, The Annual Chilli Cook Off.

The cook-off is run by the Rotary Club here as a fundraiser for needed projects, mostly for improvements to local schools; children and literacy being a concern, but it is also one of the town social events for the season and brings together both Mexicans and Gringos, mostly Canadians and Americans or ex-pats now living here.

DSCN3154The competition itself brings in 30 competitors for two coveted prizes for the Best Chilli Awards, one for the professional restauranteurs, and one for the amateurs. There are also awards for the Best Salsa and the Best Decorated Booth.

These awards are given by the crowds who come and cast their ballots, not by professional judges, so it does become a bit of a sales and marketing and popularity contest too. But lets face it if your Chilli sucks, no one but your family will vote for it and they might lie about who they really voted for to your face as the ballots are secret and only one ballot per person.DSCN3141

So there are 30 Chillis to taste and this year Jim and I tasted a record 17 (that’s right you don’t have to taste them all to vote… hey folks it’s a fundraiser). Wow they were good, and so different, so I had to keep track on my notes and we developed a rating system. However, not to alienate any of our friends who had entered pots this year, who we voted for will remain unstated.

DSCN3134-001There always seems to be one person who does the fatal mistake of burning the bottom. Anyone who has made chilli knows that if you burn the bottom, even a  little bit, it will taste like someone threw cigarette butts into your precious pot.  Ugh!

The chilli tent row is a cave of booths and when they start serving it is so crowded you can barely move. Jim and I luck out as one competitor never showed up for their booth and we nab the table and chairs and start a tag team system, of one holding our great spot while the other brings in more sample cups of chilli.

Most are in styrofoam cups but some are in more creative containers, tortilla shell cups, Mexican clay pots (see the ballot photo above) and one comes with the chilli on a chilli dog. Yummy!DSCN3150

Sure this is about the Chilli competition, but really its about the community and a lot of gabbing and socializing goes on, and of course the musica, from a great Mexican band this year. Later on a duo from B.C. will keep us dancing all night long.

I love the MC brother and sister pair this year. His sister speaks the Spanish and he  translates to English or vice versa. After a barrage of Spanish the translation becomes, “same in English.” And we all laugh.

Later at the dance, I find myself as one of the ones initiating a conga line with my real estate friend, Sara, her employee, Alfredo, and our favourite maid, Nana.  In no time we have dozens lined up behind us trying to reproduce our crazy moves. It was hysterical and a great work out too.

Yes, mi Amigos, the sign of a healthy community is food, music and dancing.DSCN3136-001DSCN3143DSCN3152DSCN3149 With a little cerveza and margaritas thrown in for fun.

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