Sunday was the 9th annual Chili Cook-Off at Central Christian Church in Dallas.  

Taking home the blue for her bowl of red, was Margaret Wilson with her chili named “Makes You Wanna Slap Your Mama.”  Margaret is a long-time member of Central (she was actually married in the old church downtown in 1949) and has always been known around the church as an excellent cook. Second place went to Katheryn Livengood for “Aunt Tommy’s Kansas City Chili” and third place to Central’s new pastor, Dr. Ken Crawford, who cooked up a batch of “Garden of the Good and Evil.” 

A second category, “Most Creative Chili” judged on taste and unusual ingredients went to Carol Keller for her seafood chili. 

Happy winners took home, along with the coveted titles, custom-made aprons from Mi Beada and spices from Pendery’s World of Chili and Spices.  The judges, in appreciation for their hard work, received local dentist and Terilingua chili winner, Dr. Ted Hume’s, “Root Canal Chili Mix.”   

But the biggest reward was an afternoon of shared fun and fellowship in the Lone Star tradition.  

Chili cook-offs have a long history in Texas.  1952 was when the first known chili cook-off took place at the State Fair of Texas, coincidentally, the same year that ground was broken for the current location of Central Christian Church. Could that have anything to do with the church’s passion and tradition for the chili cook-off? 

Terilingua held their first cook-off in 1967.  It was organized by Wick Fowler (we all know Wick by his famous 2-Alarm and False Alarm Chili Kits) and by car manufacturer Carroll Shelby to settle a feud between two journalists; Frank X. Tolbert who wrote for the Dallas Morning News, and H. Allen Smith who wrote a scathing article in Holiday Magazine claiming that he knew more about chili than anyone else.  

Mary Chris Gibbons organized the first Central Christian Church chili cook-off in 2008. It has since been a much anticipated event and fund-raiser for the Disciples Women and this year she re-named it “The John Shinn Memorial Chili Cook-Off” in memory of two-time winner, the late John Shinn.  

The cook-off is judged on taste, color and texture by a selected panel of judges, and winners are chosen in two categories, “traditional” and “creative.”  There are no rules such as beans or no beans and meats can be anyone’s choice. Even lamb made it into one person's pot. There is usually a vegetarian entry, too. 

The judges come with as varied a background and qualifications as do meat and chili toppings. 

This year Rosemary Davenport, Carol Archer and Ed Taranto judged the contest.  

Rosemary is the wife of “the real urban cowboy, longhorn rancher, John Davenport,” giving her some first-hand knowledge of Texas cooking. 

Carol was a former winner in the chili cook-off so we know she knows her red. 

And, Ed?  “I entered the cook-off my first year at Central, and I didn’t win.  I didn’t want to risk being a two-time looser, but wanted to keep my finger in the chili pot, so I agreed to judge,” he said. 

Twelve pots of chili lined the table and muffin tins were filled with each chili marked by a number. The judges went to work deciding on the 2017 winners and the rest of the congregation “rejoiced in thy feast.”  

Besides delicious bowls of chili and every topping imaginable, people couldn’t get enough of Frank Whitington’s deep-fried hush puppies.  They were a Texas-size hit, served hot and slathered with butter.  The recipe follows: 

Frank’s Pa’s Hushpuppies

1 ½ cup cornmeal

½ cup flour

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 whole egg (beaten)

½ cup finely chopped onion

1 cup buttermilk

Canola or vegetable oil for deep frying 

Mix dry ingredients together.  Add onion, then milk, then beaten egg. Drop by teaspoon into hot oil.  When done on one side tip over and cook other side.  Drain on paper towel and serve. 

Frank said that his family also served them with molasses.  Enjoy!

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