It all started with a tweet from a good friend of mine called Mike. Having just eaten the phenomenal bacon chilli cheese burger from Sizzlers burger shack (if you haven’t had it yet, track them down and demand one immediately), he mentioned that the chilli was one of best he had ever tasted and he had tasted a lot of chilli. Other people chipped in and it soon became clear that everyone had their own version and the best kind of chilli was one that was shared. Before long it was confirmed; Saturday the 27th of January was the date of the first Wolverton Chili Cook off. Bring your best chilli and complete to claim your place as the best in town. With the added incentive of a separate hot wings contest, I just had to attend. I dug out my favourite recipe, made up a batch and went to see what was going on…
Of course I didn’t win, I might be able to please the family but really I much prefer to leave all that cooking stuff to the professionals. Well the professionals and Jan Wadsworth. Because Jan submitted a cracking chilli that blew my hardened cynical tastebuds clean away. She brought together a bowl of joy featuring beautiful shredded ox tail and so many spices, creating a dish so deep that I wanted to dive into its depths and never return. It was all finished with a spike of lime that married everything together so well that it deserved a national holiday. And do we even have to mention the cornbread?
So well done to Kim, of course there was only one winner but on the plus side for the rest of us there was a whole lot of chilli to taste and enjoy. The range of different dishes put up for consideration ranged from the mega hot, through some punchy cumin power and some brave soul even put in a vegan option which although delicious was perhaps a long shot given the attendees. The afternoon was brilliant and I loved the way that people turned up for what I hope will be the start of many other amateur cook offs!
After the bowls of Mexican inspired pleasure had been consumed and while the judging was being completed there was the small matter of a hotwing challenge. Robin from the Taco Shack had concocted a sauce so diabolical in its fermentation that even the smallest blob was forcing grown men to tears at the back of the room. Perhaps it became a victim of its own success as such a bowel frighteningly powerful condiment, because when the time came to participate, competitors were reluctant to step forward. Swooping in like a vulture on what seemed to be an easy way to grab myself an almost genuine gold coloured, high quality plastic trophy, I thought that with no-one else willing to enter I just needed to survive one wing and I could proclaim myself victorious.
However, before Mrs P could remind me that these types of decisions usually end in customary disappointment for everyone concerned, it became clear that I had acted prematurely; soon the table of competitors were full and I was looking into the chilli crazed stares of some hardened fire eating specialists.
Things did not start well as I got the chilli hiccups by wing two and I noticed that there was clearly an inadequate supply of napkins provided to avoid sauce-to-eye contact that would have probably disabled me for many years to come should an errant splodge melt its way through my glasses. I started to make bad and inappropriate jokes, I can’t help it, it’s a defence mechanism.
I decided that the correct technique was to go as hard and fast as possible, a technique that paid dividends as half of the field soon dropped out, rushing away to find a source of milk. My lips were oddly both numb and horrifically painful with an agony the likes of which I can only describe as being stabbed by thousands of needles. All at once. In the face.
Across the table sat my last opponent, she had a steely glare that told me she was going nowhere. She relentlessly destroyed wing after wing like a chilli powered juggernaut until Robin called a heaven sent quick pause in proceedings (I was dribbling uncontrollably at this point from what I assumed was permanent damage to my nervous system). It was an all or nothing final lightning round. Six wings as fast as possible; I couldn’t believe my luck and I rode the endorphin rush of the final bowl of wings to the finish line and claimed my sauce smeared prize. My worthy competitor beaten only marginally by my hitherto unfortunate genetic gift of an unprecedentedly large gob.
The cup stands in pride of place on my bookshelf to remind me of the glory of success and the 4am repercussions of my hasty decision. Well done to me but next year, perhaps I’ll wait a little bit longer before volunteering.