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Senior Center sponsors chili cook-off and auction

Friday, June 19, 2009

Volunteers from the Putnam County Senior Center know how to keep things spicy. They are sponsoring a chili cook-off and white elephant auction June 28 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Moose Lodge.

With all proceeds going to the senior center, cost to come and help choose the best chili is only $5.

"Contestants for the cook-off are from local restaurants and Res-Care Residential Center. There will be musical entertainment and a white elephant auction of all kinds of 'fun' items," said the new acting director of the center Kyle Hutchison.

Doors open at 2 p.m., and the chili tasting and judging will take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Entertainment is from 3 to 4 p.m. and the auction runs from 4 to 5 p.m.

The first documented chili cook-off took place in 1967 in Terlingua, a remote ghost town in Texas' Big Bend Country that was revitalized by its annual contests. The idea spread like good gossip, and since that time, communities large and small have been hosting annual competitions to determine who makes the best chili. Last year the Chili Appreciation Society sanctioned over 450 cook-off events.

According to an article from the International Chili Society by chili specialist H. Allen Smith, Canary Islanders invented the spicy soup.

In the 1720s, the Spanish were in command of the town, which they had founded, but the French were pushing in from the east and an appeal went out to the king of Spain to send some settlers.

The king obliged half-heartedly, shipping 16 families out from the Canary Islands. They established themselves in rude huts on the spot now known as the Main Plaza. In their homeland, these people were accustomed to food made pungent with spices.

"They liked hot peppers and lots of garlic and they were acquainted with oregano. So they looked around to see what was available in foodstuffs in their new home and they came up with a stew of beef and hot peppers and oregano and garlic and, I make bold to believe, tomatoes and onions and beans. It is my guess, too, that they managed to get hold of some cumin seed, which comes chiefly from North Africa," said Allen.

For more information about the chili cook-off and white elephant auction call the Greencastle Senior Center at 653-8606.

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