16 February 2012
The second annual Como Civic Club chili cook-off was held last Saturday at our home. This marks the month when memberships are renewed. This year the club presented a check to the Fire Department from those memberships and other fund raising efforts last year. The $4,000.00 donation plus matching funds from the fire department enabled them to buy a thermal imaging camera. This high tech piece of equipment allows the viewer to detect the source of a fire and locate people and pets in the building before even entering. Fire Chief Randy Perkins brought the camera to the event and demonstrated how it worked. As he scanned the room of people, ghostlike images of bodies appeared on the screen of the unit. Randy said, the brighter the white, the hotter the source. Bowin Wallace seemed to be the hottest, probably because he’s a young guy.
Bowen’s daughter Phoebe Grace Wallace, age two, was the youngest guest attending that afternoon. Aaron Coleman’s son Brayden, age four, also attended, dressed in his own firefighter’s uniform. Firemen Aaron Coleman, Don Gill, Bill Wallace, Fire Chief Randy Perkins, and new volunteer Austin Maynard, nineteen, are heroes and were our honored guests. That day Austin donned the antiquated self contained breathing apparatus showing us what they carry on their backs into a fire. Perkins got the units when Kellogg was throwing them out. They were eighteen years old and obsolete at that time and our men have been using them for fifteen. They desperately need new air packs for safe breathing. Many of the volunteers are family men and are sometimes hard to reach says Perkins. We need new volunteers like Austin Maynard. Some of these young guys receive their training and experience with volunteer departments and later move on to have a career in other area departments
Things were heating up in the kitchen. No matter how far ahead you plan and prepare your home and menu, something is bound to happen. You accidentally burn the mashed potatoes just prior to serving Thanksgiving dinner. I can read their minds…”Where are the mashed potatoes? How strange she isn’t serving them. What’s all this gravy for? It’s just not thanksgiving without the potatoes.”
What happened this time was that we were in fear of not having enough chili for the group we thought we might have. First, I hadn’t heard if chili master David McBride would be able to make one or not. Another friend Casey Conley had planned to make one but wasn’t feeling well the day before so I started to panic. I called and begged McBride, “Please, please”. “Those people don’t know what real chili is supposed to taste like”. I thought he was just a sore loser, because Randy beat him last year. He said he’d think about it and call me back. While David was mulling it over and Casey was hoping to feel up for it I was stewing about what to do. It was too late to make another chili myself. My David joked and said, “I’ll just go to the dollar store and buy six cans of Wolf Brand chili and pour a half a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce in and be a mystery entry in the competition. David McBride might be right. Maybe their palates aren’t so sophisticated. Someone might even vote for it”.
But thankfully this time, all of my concerns about the “chili shortage” worked out. McBride made his chili. Casey being such a good friend said she wouldn’t let me down. And Friday afternoon Rebekah Lipscomb called and wanted to know if she could bring a pot of her chili too. “Oh please do” I said. “The more the merrier”.
Soon after my calm of a lack of chili came the fear of a possible cornbread crisis. It seems David had followed Margaret Wilbourn’s hot water cornbread recipe, however it didn’t turn out not like we know it has to be because she makes the best. I picked up the phone and called Alvin’s. No cornbread. He sold out Friday at lunch. Robert Birge didn’t have any either. David and Bob Kent tried to reassure me that there would be plenty, since Doris Perkins was bringing hers, and we had saltines, oyster crackers, and Fritos, but I wasn’t convinced.
Just before noon guests started to arrive and crock pots were lined up along the long sideboard in the dining room. I put on a clean black apron that Bobby Lipscomb had made for me, with white embroidery on the front that reads “Chat ‘N’ Chew”, and along the bottom edge, “Cookin’ without lookin’”. Along with this gift came his mom Rebekah with her cast iron pot of chili. Later she explained to me that the pot is over seventy-five years old and was a wedding gift to her and Buddy. But even more exciting was an unexpected basket of her Mexican cornbread!! I exclaimed with arms in the air, “The cornbread fairy has arrived. Thank God!”
Before the tasting and judging started, Mike Bartlett arrived with a last minute entry of a white chicken chili and his grandmother’s recipe of cornbread. So, the eight chili contestants that day were David McBride, Bobby Kent, Randy Perkins, Casey Conley, Rebekah Lipscomb, David Dickerson, Mike Bartlett, and yes, the mystery contestant with the Wolf Brand chili. By the way, it did get one vote for first place, one for second, and two votes for third place!
I was so delighted to see so many people from Como gathering to honor our Volunteer Firefighters that day. It was very cold – A perfect time for chili and a civic celebration. Over fifty people attended. It was a blind tasting and all voted for their favorite three. First place went to David McBride, who regained his crown this year after losing it to Randy last year. Second was chili king Bobby Kent, who also has placed high in previous contests. And third place was our hot chili chief Randy Perkins, who probably let them win this year to save their egos and raise more money to save lives. Fifty dollars went to the winner and there were consolation prizes of a bag of New Mexican Chili and Honey Bees wax candles for second and third place.
An old black rubber fireman’s boot stood in the dining room throughout the event and donations and memberships were piling up. Margaret’s pound cake and some vanilla ice cream were the chill and sweet ending that we all savored after so much spice.
I remember standing near the chili bar considering and tasting my favorites. I made a comment to two others dong the same. I said that I like chili that clears my sinuses, tickles the throat, and stimulates and puffs my lips up like Goldie Hawn in “First Wives’ Club”. They should make lipstick with it. It would be cheaper than collagen injections.
Speaking of pumping it up, I called Rebekah Lipscomb on Monday to ask if she would share her chili recipe. She didn’t say she would email it to me like most do today, but instead, read it to me slowly over the phone. During the course of our conversation, she told me that she exercises three times a week at Curves in Senatobia. The image of my elliptical trainer sitting in the next room became bigger than life. This wasn’t the first message from the fitness gods. Not too long ago my friend Lupe’s six year old daughter Tamara got on the machine, started it up, and complained that it was dusty. “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings cometh forth truth”. And, the truth is, I want my six-pack back! So Tuesday, Rebekah, who is ninety-three, picked me up and away I went with her to Curves. Hopefully, this will be the start of a routine that I’ll continue for a long, long time. Thanks to the candor of Tamara and the wisdom of Rebekah for motivating me to do it.
Rebekah Lipscomb’s Chili
One to two pounds lean ground beef
One small clove garlic
6 ounce can tomato paste
18 ounce can tomato sauce
One Dash hot sauce
One can water
Two large onions, minced
One half cup ketchup
Four tablespoons chili powder
One large can pinto beans
One half cup sugar
Directions: Sauté beef, onions, and garlic. Add and stir in other ingredients. Cover and cook on low for four hours.