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   A little later the breeze is heavy with aroma from bubbling chili pots: spices, onions, chili powder, bay leaves, cumin, and of course those secret ingredients each team keeps out of sight but hopes will sway the judges.

   I wander back to the Koala Lodge booth. “What’s new?” I ask.
   “A major disaster, that’s what,” Paul says. “Three dead tree leaves just fell into the pot and we can’t find them.”
   It’s hard not to laugh. “Better hope there weren’t any ants on them,”
   “Jeez, never thought of that,” Paul says.
   Dave gets up. “No worries blokes,” he says. “The judges will think the leaves are Basil.”
   I wish them good luck then go back to the bar.

   At 3:15 the MC's voice comes over the loudspeaker, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner!” He announces the second runner up, the local VFW Post 9892, then the first runner up, a team from Manila. “And now ladies and gentlemen, the moment we have all been waiting for - the winner of the 13th Annual Chili Cookoff is . . . Koala Lodge!” This is met with a round of clapping, and by some, utter disbelief.

   I take the winning recipe out of my pocket and smooth out some of the creases. There is a list of ingredients followed by cooking instructions. The instructions read:

   "Brown the beef and onions. Place in a pot. Add everything else. Light the fire then go and have a drink. Get someone to stir once in a while. When all is finished place trophy in office."

Allan Miller, November 2006

  Copyright © 2006 Allan Miller

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