Woodworking: As my stomach still turns, I narrate this columnNever say never. A few years ago, a chili contest sponsor asked me to judge several bowls of chili that were entered in a contest at the Ace of Clubs Tavern in northeast Minneapolis.
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
Never say never. A few years ago, a chili contest sponsor asked me to judge several bowls of chili that were entered in a contest at the Ace of Clubs Tavern in northeast Minneapolis.
I respectfully declined and told my beautiful wife that I would NEVER eat a bowl of chili, much less judge a chili contest.
“How so?” asked my beloved.
I explained that 60 years ago, I worked for a farmer all summer. He was a nice fellow as was his wife, who, unfortunately, was a terrible cook. Every morning, she served half-inch thick pancakes. If you poked them with a fork, batter would ooze out onto the surface.
At lunch, we got Kool-Aid and Fig Newtons. We seldom got supper because the boss and wife usually left right after chores for the nearest nightclub.
So that found my brother and me hitchhiking to town to eat at our parents’ restaurant.
Wednesday dawned and my brother took off for the county fair in Galesville. I stayed behind to eat a battery pancake, after which the boss sent me and my brother’s substitute, Edwin Estenson, to shock oats on the 40 across the highway.
Edwin was a tough old coot, who looked a lot like the carp that swam in the Trempealeau River, which cut through the farm.
It was hotter than Hades, and we were glad to retire to the house at noon to heat up the leftover chili which the boss’s wife had left behind when she took off for the county fair. Edwin and I ate several bowls because who knew when we’d be back on the Fig Newton routine?
Off we went to the oat field for more shocking oats. By 2 p.m. I began feeling woozy. And very, VERY thirsty.
Edwin pointed out a spring that was emitting ice cold water out of a hillside.
“Take some water if you’re thirsty.”
I gulped it down and when it hit the bottom of my stomach I threw it right back up. I struggled through the rest of the afternoon, shocking, drinking, puking. Old Ed had to help me back to the barn for chore time.
I lay down on a pile of feed sacks in the silo room and thought about chili, then threw up.
The boss came home from town, his natural habitat, and asked what was wrong.
“I’m really thirsty.”
“Here,” he said, handing me a can of Walter’s Beer, the beer that is beer. “Drink this. It’s good for what ails you.”
I slugged it down and threw it right back up. I can still see the beer foam on the silo floor.
The boss sent me home to my parents, where I ate an entire watermelon, just for the juice.
I threw that up, too.
On the morrow I went to Doc Tyvand’s musty old office in the Commercial Building, throwing up as I went. His diagnosis: Ptomaine poisoning.
A week later the boss’ wife got to thinking and spilled the beans — literally. She admitted she had used old kidney beans from an already opened can when she made our chili.
So why didn’t Edwin Estenson get sick?
“Oh,” she said. “Ed’s a Norwegian. The stuff they eat would make spoiled kidney beans taste like tapioca pudding.”
I continued to vomit until school began, when I returned 50 pounds lighter than in the spring. That was the year I stopped eating chili from the hot lunch line or from anywhere else. Same went for kidney beans.
And so it was with some trepidation that I agreed to be a judge at the first annual chili contest at Johnnie’s Bar alongside Bob Gwidt, the other judge, who is Polish and lives on sauerkraut. I’m just hoping there’ll be a few entries without kidney beans.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 426-9554.