A Chili Cook Off of One

Every early November somethingth, our cozy little canyon community has a chili cook off and swap meet. I have participated in the cook off the past four or five years. It’s always the same group of us — Tom, who brings his homemade wine and last year forgot to put his truck in park and we all watched as it rolled off the cliff; my pal Dan, who won last year but drank too much during the morning and was passed out in his van when his name was announced; the young duo of Julian and Trevor, who object whenever I don’t win. Nobody cares much who wins or loses, it’s a lot of fun.

Winner!

I’ve never won. I came in second a couple years back. “Dude, you got robbed!” said Julian and Trevor, who won that year. More

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Tacotopia, Episode #2: The Taco Takes Texas

Though Texas is, like California, a border state, I don’t really associate it with tacos. Sizzlin’ pans of fajita chicken with bell peppers, yes — but not so much the humble and extraordinary taco.

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Last April, I made a Texas smoked brisket for my daughter Willa’s ninth birthday party. No, she did not ask for a brisket — I just thought it was a good idea. What little girl doesn’t dream of smoked brisket for her birthday?

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Spooks, Sandwiches & Sympathy for the Devil

It couldn’t really have started any worse.

The day of our school’s annual Halloween Carnival — the new, experimental 2015 edition in which I would be cooking for somewhere apparently between 450 and 600 people — had arrived.

Rennie at work

Rennie at work

I got to the ballfield at the local community center around 1:30 for the 3:30 start time. I unloaded my coolers full of meat, boxes of bread and bags of slaw — far more food than was necessary, I was certain, and felt confident I would be bringing things home at the evening’s conclusion. But the event organizer, my friend Danielle, had asked me to err on the side of abundance. To cook on, there was a large and rusty Santa Maria grill that had rolled in on wheels and parked itself beneath the backstop. More

The Fastest Chili in the West!

I was in a pinch! I had to go out and needed to feed my family. Desperately searching my nearly empty fridge (we were going on vacation), freezer and cupboards, I found a can of beans. Inspiration took over — I could make a quick chili!

Practically instant chili

Practically instant chili

Despite what the chili-heads and aficionados will try to tell you (and sell you), chili doesn’t have to be a complicated or obtuse affair. Indeed, some of the chili I’ve thrown together in a pinch with ground turkey and tomato paste, for example, have been better than the fancy versions with heirloom tomatoes and tri-tip that I’ve labored over across the course of days. More

Ancient Celtic Symbol Appears in Watermelon!

One of my favorite grocery store tabloid headlines ever, many years ago on the cover of the late, great Florida rag Weekly World News, said: “Lovestruck Farmer Weds Head of Lettuce.” Featured beneath the headline was a photo of the amorous agriculturalist with the object of his affection.

I must say I was a bit head-over-heels myself a couple days ago when I cut into a mini-watermelon to find an ancient Celtic symbol — the spiral, representing  life, death and rebirth.

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People always seem to be finding images of significant things in their food. The most popular subjects are usually religious — Jesus for example, or the Virgin Mary. More

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