Today is the chili cook-off at church. The church we just started attending 2 months ago. The church that we finally found after years of “shopping and trying on so many others.” The church where everyone has been so welcoming, where my teens are making friends, and so am I.
The church we may just be saying good-bye to after today.
I love, love, love chili. Thick, hearty, extra-spicy, vegetarian chili. I’ve been told I make a decent batch, too. Even my little carnivores don’t miss the meat I omit. So, last month, when the church announced there would be a chili cook-off today, both girls immediately began encouraging me to “do that!” They didn’t have to push hard. They know the buttons to push because I’m also a competitive person. We all joked about their mama “taking down” the other chili cooks.
Yesterday, I added “chili ingredients” to the list before I headed out to shop for the upcoming holiday. Two different stores, and three hours later, I returned home. Already tired from my excursion, I vacillated on the chili. I finished putting away the groceries and poured myself a cup of coffee. Complete with Caramel Macchiato creamer, whipped cream and sprinkles. My treat for a shopping trip well done. I sat. I checked email, Facebook, the headline news, and, of course, this blog. I licked at the tower of whipped cream. I sipped the creamy coffee. I procrastinated. I sunk deeper into my chair and began to let go of the chili cook-off competition.
“Girls, I don’t think I’m going to do the chili cook-off. I’m tired and I want to make a batch of soup for your dad,” I said as I sat, my back turned to both. One watched TV while the other played on her laptop. “Are you cool with that, or does it matter to you?” I asked casually.
Neither flinched. They were fine with it. No attachment. Both said, “OK.” Then, with stealth accuracy, the older teen dropped the bomb.
“Of course that’s fine, Mom. I just think you could win this. But, do what you want.”
She played me like a violin, tapping into her mama’s competitive spirit. (I’m a lot of fun during family game night, too. :)) I was up, chopping onions and opening cans of beans before my coffee cup was emptied.
I sautéed. I added. I stirred. I tasted. I added more of this, and little of that. I stirred again. I tasted again. I let it simmer. Finally, I asked for input from my 17-year-old chili taster.
“Well?” I asked.
“Good,” she replied. I watched her eyes. Then, I saw it. They flew open wide, a look of shock and panic. “Oh, oh, oh!” There it was. The after-burn. Got it right.
As the burn dissipated, she smiled. “Oh, that’s good,” she said.
My husband tasted. “Well, one sure way to win is to burn the judges’ taste buds so they can’t taste anyone else’s,” he joked.
I looked at both and teased back, “This batch may just leave them breathing fire, which may win the competition, but cost us our new found church if they worry only Satan could produce chili this hot. I’ll blame it on the teen.”
The chili really isn’t that spicy, but her expression was priceless. As I set the Crock-Pot on low and walked away, I could hear her snickering.
Two of my favorite things about being a mother have always been, and still are, sharing books and laughter with my children. What are yours?
And, we’re off to the competition…