Thirteen pots of red chili adorned a table at the Portales Senior Citizens Center Monday night. A hot, seasoned aroma hovered lightly in the room. And a spicy zing painted the taste buds of some 45 seniors and six judges.
The Fourth Annual Chili Cookoff and first annual pie baking contest raised an estimated $300 for the Mayor’s Christmas Program to purchase Christmas gifts for low-income children.
Neither Dorothy Sander’s first place chili or Dot Britton’s first-place apple pie had any secret ingredients.
So how did the duo’s food win the stomachs of the judges?
“I’m 85 and was married at age 16 — take a guess,” Britton said.
Britton added that she thinks the quality of the apples she used made a difference. She said the three apples she used in her pie were a special type that originated from Japan. She bought the apples at the local farmer’s market.
On her first-place chili dish Sanders said: “I cooked it all day — the longer you cook it the better it tastes.”
Sanders said she’s been making chili for 60 to 70 years and may have gotten her cooking skills from her mother.
“My mother is the best cook in the world and I don’t think she ever used a measuring cup,” Sanders said.
As the judges were tasting chili, a few in the audience were talking chili: how to make it, how they like it, how the right touch of ingredients makes all the difference and what kind of drinks the judges should sip before tasting another batch.
“I like my chili spicy and hot, real hot,” Ralph Huegel said.
Huegel did not enter any chili in the contest but said when he does make chili he doesn’t use chili powder. Instead, Huegel said he crushes up peppers — hot peppers.
Jim Good, director of the Portales Senior Citizens Center, said the event is not only becoming a tradition, but the money raised through donations allows the seniors — and anyone who wants to attend — contribute to the community.
Good made two batches of Chili for the contest, one of which mixed with pork and buffalo meat that he described as the best he’s ever made.
Other winners in the chili contest were Charlene Carter (second place) and Good (third place).
In the pie contest Francis Martin finished second and Celia Dawson earned third.