Chili Cook-off JudgeTuesday, September 6, 2011
(and yes, before you ask, great chefs DO speak in All Caps)
We could go on for some time about Big Jim, but this is a family-oriented site (OK, vaguely family-oriented). Big Jim's language, while colorful and extremely amusing, is not well-suited for the kind of dignified audience that frequents these pages.
After our judicial experience, we jotted down some notes -- so that anyone who was curious about the inside workings of these events, or might even be considering participating in one, could make a more informed decision. Those jottings follow, forthwith.
Beer is free for judges -- a keg from a local microbrewery was provided. This, no doubt, is supposed to ensure the proper judicial objectivity. There was some idle talk about "cleansing the palate," but everyone seemed to understand that this smokescreen was used in approximately the same manner in which incumbents talk about term limits.
The actual judging was simple: First, judges were not allowed to eat chili before the judging (this is so that they can actually stand the stuff). There were thirty-five little numbered buckets o' chili, divided between two tables. Each judge got a score sheet. The chili was anonymous; the ballots were not. Irate chili-cooks may track down any judge at their leisure and wreck what vengeance they will.
Anyway, the judges write down their impressions: "too greasy," "too salty," "habaneros, while piquant, are not classic," "meat cut irregularly" -- note that ground meat or beans are automatic disqualifiers -- "too soupy," "too dry," "off color," "only a gender-challenged Yankee (or someone from Cincinnati) would be foolish enough to add cinnamon to chili," "smells strangely of burning rubber," and "what the hell is that kiwi doin' in there?" -- refined analysis of that sort.
We circled the tables a coupla' times, being careful not to actually retch over the bad ones. Supposedly, this was meant to avoid influencing the other judges -- but it was really so that we would not be alone in the emergency room for the post-game show. At the end, the judges indicated (at the bottom of the form, between the grease stains) which three they disliked least.
That's all there was to it -- except to stop for a bit more palate-cleansing, and bolt for the Port-o-sans, upending the occasional baby buggy, as necessary.