Birmingham Chili Cook Off: A Retrospective in Haiku

Northwestern Mutual’s annual Birmingham Chili Cook-Off to benefit the Exceptional Foundation proved once more that denizens of the Magic City are not going to let silly hang ups like “cleanliness” or “showers” keep them from a tasty treat. Looking like they just got out of bed, hundreds of citizens in North Face fleeces and baseball caps descended on Homewood Park and tried in vain to eat tiny styrofoam cups of chili without spilling any on their croakies. I was not immune. My “Carroccio Ricotta” hat high upon my head, I chose a light brown North Face fleece for the occasion and joined my fellow Birminghamians in asking, “Where is the beer line?”

I tried a number of very good chilies, a few great ones, some that were… interesting. But what sticks in my mind? The truly awful. You can’t hand me a cup of dry ground beef that tastes like fenugreek, salt, and capsaicin and expect me not to notice. Of all the companies that had a booth, the one restaurant whose booth I saw had by far the most bland entry of the day. Thank goodness for Good People Pale Ale to wash everything down.

As might be expected, there was some drinking going on by the contestants. Since set up began at 4 am, some inebriation was to be expected. According to the one contestant I knew, some of the booths fell to the booze, closing their booth around 11 am (the gates opened at 10:30). I was not surprised that the booths sponsored by bars were alert and conversant. They had beers. Don’t misunderstand me. I think they just had more drinking practice than the rest. Special mention: Innisfree Pub – rosey faced, convivial, great chili, and a shot of something warming for my troubles.

On to the haiku:

Homewood park wakens.
Chili chases away cold.
North Face helps a bit.

Soup is not chili
Unless it is Gazpatcho.
Adroit Tomatoes.

Good People Pale Ale
Slakes the mighty want of thirst
despite fenugreek crap.

Booths with spicy treats
and beer, no wine within sight,
liquor helps a bit.

Texans sit and laugh
as the Bammers try their game.
We remember Colt.

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