Petaluma Chili Cookoff

I have trouble believing in any religion whose god issues rules about how you should treat your slaves.


Oh, i’m such a small town booster.

Now it’s the Great Petaluma Chili Cookoff.

I wrote earlier about seeing a poster advertising the cookoff and wondering what in the world Petalumans could possibly know about chili?  I mean, between Petaluma and Terlingua there’s a thousand miles of desert punctuated by a couple of mountain ranges, not to mention another 500 mile grind up the central valley.  Still, i was eager to attend the event and even put in an application to be one of the chefs.  Fortunately, all the slots were full, which is really for the best since applying to be a chef was ridiculous, not ever having attended one of the events.

I did a trial run for Jo Ann and Christian to get an idea how Petalumans might react upon tasting real chili for the first time in their lives.  Made a half batch of my chili, cranberry beans, cornbread, braised spinach, and wall rocket salad.  For dessert after a stroll on the riverbank, a flourless almond torte accompanied by a 1998 Special Select Late Harvest Johannisberg Riesling from Beringer that i’d had tucked back.  The chili went over well, especially since i held back on the chile powder.

So last Saturday was the big day, and a festive one it was in Herzog Hall at the Petaluma Fairgrounds.  It was packed with folks having a good time, what a wonderful communal spirit.


Booth after booth of offerings, including every fire department for miles around.


Plus plenty of civilians.


And how silly it was of me to have thought i could enter this competition by myself.  In the first place, the sheer quantity of chili i’d have to make to give hundreds of people a little paper tasting bowl of it.  And in the second place, i’d need a team purely for the logistics of serving the chili.  Not to mention coming up with a gestalt and perhaps costumes.

As it was, i had a great time and tasted many of the entries in the “meat” category, skipping the vegetarian and vegan stuff and those that seemed to be mostly beans.

How were they?  Well, some of ’em were OK, a few were pretty tasty, but none of ’em was what i’d call real chili since authentic chili contains little but meat and chiles.  Hell, some of those that advertised themselves as “meat” chili would actually qualify under FDA rules as a vegetable dish since they had so much tomato and onions and beans in them.  Not to mention the sugar.  Oh please.

These folks are too far from Terlingua to know what good chili is, so it’s just as well that i simply attended the cookoff rather than trying to participate in it.  What i applaud is the spirit of the cookoff because that’s what Petaluma has in abundance.






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  1. David Ogden
    Posted 15 May 2016 at 12:27 | Permalink

    Got something against tomato and onion and beans? Sounds like a good combo to me. The photos are wonderful.

    • Posted 15 May 2016 at 14:13 | Permalink

      Tomato and onion are excellent in salsa. Beans are often served as an accompaniment to chili and can even be served on the same plate so long as they are not allowed to touch, which can be assured by placing them on opposite sides of the greens. Small children will often start mixing them together on the plate but are quickly corrected and cautioned against playing with their food. You are not required to eat all the chili on the plate before you begin the beans, or vice versa, as it is quite proper to alternate bites if no single forkful mingles chili and beans.

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