“Next to music there is nothing that lifts the spirits and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.”

When I was growing up, my parents’ church had this picnic and chili cookoff . . . I don’t know if they did it every year, but they did it fairly regularly for a while, in the fall, I think, because it was cold a couple of times. And we would go, and my dad would say to my mom, “Why don’t you enter your chili? I like it better than any of these.” And every year my mom declined to enter hers.

My workplace sponsors a chili cookoff every year as a fundraiser. They sell the chili and the money goes to charity and the winner gets a cash prize. I use the same recipe my mom does, and I thought about entering last year, but I was still kind of dragging from having my wisdom teeth out, so I decided against it. This year, though, I thought about my dad, and I decided to enter, hopefully to prove him right. He encouraged the taking of risks, and cooking for a competition is definitely a risk for me. Heck, I can’t even beat Mike in a cookie bakeoff. But I wanted to be brave and to try something new, and so yesterday I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, perfecting the spices, tasting and retasting and making Mike do the same. This morning I got up early so I could heat the pot and transfer it to my crockpot. I carefully transported it over to the place where the cookoff was being held. I nervously waited all morning for lunchtime, when I’d find out the results. Two of my coworkers and I drove over there together, and I entered the room to find . . . (insert dramatic pause here) . . .

Now, in a perfect world, the chili that my dad loved would win, just because that’s a heartwarming story. But this isn’t a perfect world. I didn’t win. I didn’t really expect to, since my chili’s not anything fancy, but I had to try. It’s what my dad would have wanted me to do.

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This one’s for you, Daddy. I hope that even just entering made you proud. I know you liked it the best, and that’s what really matters. (I miss you.)

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