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Dee Bonner | Shelbyville, IN
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January 23, 2019

Blood Sport
According to Chinese martial arts folklore and American pop culture, the Dim Mak ("Touch of Death"), is a legendary and deadly fighting tactic. The Dim Mak is a multiple-blow attack where the attacker rapidly strikes an opponent at various pressure points on the body. When properly executed, the vicious technique can result in incapacitation, paralysis, even death.

Sound brutal? Then you've never heard of the Brown Family Chili Cook-Off, an annual event that would send the Black Dragon Fighting Society crawling home on their knees bawling like newborn babies.

The Brown Family Chili Cook-Off was established in October 2001. The event is staged annually at Sugarbush Lake on Brown's Maplewood Farm in eastern Shelby County. I'll leave it to family historians and organizers to explain the origins, details and their own recollections concerning the cook-off if they wish.

In the meantime, I'll just sit here and stare at the empty space on my kitchen wall where for the past twelve months, the "Golden Ladle" was once proudly displayed. I wish I could provide you with a list of previous Chili Cook-Off winners, unfortunately, those winners are listed on the back of the "Golden Ladle", the highly-coveted traveling trophy wall plaque, which, as of yesterday at approximately 8 p.m., is no longer in my possession.

This much I will tell you, I won first place in last year's Chili Cook-Off with my "Shrimp Scampi Italian Sausage Chili." This year, I entered a worthy concoction dubbed "Bourbon Beef and Bean Chili" and I considered it would be a serious contender for the 2009 top prize.

I've been serious about my entries in the annual chili cook-off ever since the year I tied for first place in the balloting, only to be disqualified due to a technicality. Apparently, jumbo margaritas do not qualify, technically, as "chili."

Allow me to take a minute to ask you a question. Just out of curiosity, if an individual creates an original chili recipe, then spends several weeks of his life hand-picking the finest beans; grinding his own fresh ground chuck; and patiently nurturing his creation throughout a twelve-hour preparation and cooking process, don't you think that individual (whoever he might be) should warrant better than a fourth-place tie? Just asking.

By now, maybe you've realized that I didn't win this year's cook-off. But that's okay, it's not like I'm depressed or anything. After all, my sister, Linda Brown, won the 2009 Brown Family Chili Cook-off and I'm happy for her. Linda won with her "Wah-Wah Chi-Chi Hallelujah Chickpea Roasted Duck Chili" (Note to Linda: If I didn't get that name exactly right, feel free to correct me).

So, I'm not depressed. I'm happy.

I'm happy even though I think Linda may have flirted with a possible disqualification for wearing a sombrero during her arrival at the event (Linda is fond of making grand entrances). You see, this year's event theme was "To Hell With Texas" and her sombrero might have been a geographical technical violation.

I decided not to make the sombrero an issue, since Linda faced a far more serious disqualification challenge from one of her own offspring. As a result, a raucous dispute arose as to whether or not chickpeas were, in fact, beans. This was a crucial question because 2009 Cook-Off rules stipulated that every entry must contain beans.

A text message was immediately sent to ChaCha, the much-ballyhooed, mobile question-answering, human search engine which is based in Carmel, Indiana. The service claims to provide a real answer from a real person, free of charge, usually within three minutes. However none of ChaCha's 20,000 "human answer guides" responded to the urgent request. Maybe they all decided to go on a smoke break at the same time.

Anyway, for the record, later research revealed that a chickpea (also called a garbanzo) is an edible legume and qualifies as a bean. Therefore, Linda's winning recipe will stand.

Speaking of definitions, I owe nephew Jason a half-hearted apology for attempting to disqualify his entry by repeatedly referring to it as a "stew." Even though his entry dish of peas, carrots, hot dogs and 'taters is indeed, a stew, it turns out that all types of chili can also be defined as a stew. Therefore, I'm sorry Jason. Now, will you please apologize for calling my elegant chili a "sloppy joe mix?"

By the way, if a prize was awarded for best chili name, Jim Brown would win with his Shakespearean tribute, "To Bean or Not To Bean."

Clever names are a holdover from the early years of the cook-off when much more emphasis was placed on marketing efforts to secure votes rather than concentrating on the actual chili-tasting. I don't mention that to diminish the accomplishments of any previous winners, I merely want to point out the competitive origins of the event. Eventually, rules were established that severely limited marketing activities.

Speaking of rules, it might be helpful if everyone could have a copy of the cook-off rules prior to next year's event. That would relieve Linda from the onerous burden of having to make up new rules every five minutes during the chili-tasting.

On a final note, kudos to Jay and Matt Brown for introducing electronic voting this year. Even though I personally prefer a paper trail for all votes cast, I suppose e-voting is a significant improvement over prior years when the paper ballots were promptly thrown into the bonfire immediately after results were announced. Also, electronic voting will allow us to perform an analysis of the results in order to determine if Linda is buying votes with those Halloween gift bags she gives to all of the grandkids every year.

Feel free to share your thoughts.

P.S. Does anyone have my glass Crock-Pot lid with a black handle? I came home with a smaller glass lid with a white handle. I'll need it by next October.

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2009
Article comment by: mathup

Jay's Boom Boom Pow Chili was clearly the most clever name. It appears that there may be a generational issue here. You see, Jay's chili contained Black-eyed Peas which happens to be the moniker of a current rock band that recently produce a hit that recently reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list, called, Boom Boom Pow.

Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Article comment by: Francis Robinson

Back many many years ago I lived just down the road from Linda. Back then I blamed all of the smoke and smell on Crim's asphalt business. Now I have to wonder if Linda was testing chili mixes way back then... :-)

Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Article comment by: Debbie Ewing

Your "Blood Sport" article is most entertaining, although I must admit that I already heard the colorful details from Linda today.
Your family members are not only master chefs, but as clever as you are with prose.
If you are interested in an impartial jurist for next years event, I could be available.

Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Article comment by: LINDA L. BROWN

I will be commenting when I am finished speaking to the Culinary Schools, signing autograghs, and being interviewed from several Restaurant Chefs.....Good Lord, FAME IS VERY TIRING! PEOPLE JUST WON'T LEAVE YOU ALONE. "YOUR LOVING WINNING SIS"

Posted: Monday, October 26, 2009
Article comment by: jsnbrown

After allowing my blood pressure to descend to a normal operating level, I have chosen to respond.

I accept your apology for describing my self-proclaimed masterpiece as a “stew”. I also would like to apologize for describing your concoction as “sloppy joe mix”. This was much too broad of a characterization. “Manwich” from the can would be more precise.

After reading your article’s description of the contents of my “Bear arms Chili”, namely your suggesting I had cleaned out the vegetable bin of my ice box and hacked up a pack of Oscar Mayer wieners, this raised a new line of trash-talk. Thus, the “Manwich” reference ensued!

When, in fact, the “Hot Dogs” you referred to was Claus’ German Smoked Beef Sausage (1845 South Shelby Street, Indianapolis, IN 46203 · (317) 632-1963. These sausages were meticulously evaluated and scrutinized. They were prepared as such, and placed in the cauldron, sans-skin! My original recipe then called for potatoes, tomatoes, ground chilies, salt, “spices”, one-half head of cabbage, and one ear of shaved white corn. However, to keep in line with the common ingredient, I added green beans. Not commonly found in Chili, I digress, but a BEAN!

Now, one would agree with your ramblings of the preposterous event, where an artist would induce such effort into a dish and wind up tied fourth. But how, mind you, could you possibly explain my “Stew” finishing a paltry 9th place?

Ah yes, the fix was in!

Sadly, I returned to my château and scraped the last remaining bowl of chili left in the pot, heated and enjoyed.

At least I came home with a little something extra, a new glass Crock-Pot lid with a black handle. Fits perfect!


p.s. Thanks Dee for everything...seriously!

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