A mysterious thing happened on Friday afternoon. I was suddenly and fiercely stricken with some of the most unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms I’ve had since a full-blown bout of gastroenteritis a few years back. All of Friday afternoon, evening, night and well into Saturday morning were spent virtually chained to the toilet. Lovely, I know.
But here’s the mysterious part: Jenny, Fayza, Monica and I all came down with the exact same symptoms at the exact same time. And we were all at the exact same party on Wednesday night. Coincidence? I think not. While I was holding out hope that this was some kind of stomach flu and not food poisoning, I’ve had enough stomach bugs in my life to tell the difference. All that’s left to do now is figure out the culprit…
While I was laying in bed sometime around 3am on Saturday morning with vicious stomach cramps, all I could think of was I’ve GOT to get better in time to judge the chili cookoff! Nothing stands between me and chili/passing judgment on others. I’m devoted like that.
So on Saturday afternoon, I dragged myself out of bed — pale and achy and weak — and down to Shady Tavern. The smell of chili and barbeque in the air was like an aroma from the gods, like a victory banquet at Valhalla. Surely I didn’t have the stomach flu; if I did, this smell would make me vomit immediately.
Along with Richard and fellow Chowhound Peggy, I began making my way through the tables and tents of contestants, eyeing their cooking methods and decorations. One table, Hunka-Hunka-Burning Chili, had framed Elvis pictures painted on black velvet hung on the fence behind them, along with enough Elvis memorabilia to make Graceland pale in comparison. Another table offered tempting side dishes — freshly pickled jalapeno carrots, various sausages and beer-butt chicken — in addition to their chili. One team had men wearing wigs and housecoats (the Yo Mama’s Chili team) and another had small, adorable children passing out appetizers at the incongrously-named TNT Tits-n-Tails Chili tent. And I sensed a distinct rivalry between the Sexual Chili and the Sensual Chili teams.