Chili, soup contests are fall traditions


Tasting seven types of chili and scoring six soups was a reminder that homemade comfort foods are alive and well.

But, the real bonus at the October evening meeting at the Toledo Woman’s Club was reinstating a longtime respect and friendship for the club that dates back to 1892.

The club has met in an attractive suite on Woodley Road for eight years, but my memories go back to the Cherry Street clubhouse.

Those recollections include a nicely dressed group of women, some wearing hats, a business meeting, and a sit-down luncheon or formal tea. I was the guest speaker more than once.

But this time the invitation from Judith Taylor Morrin was to judge the Chili and Soup Cook-Off. The Central Catholic High School band kicked off the event with a parking lot concert.

It was the second time the club detoured from the usual monthly agendas to hold a cook-off, but now the 80 members are back on schedule at meetings that focus on supporting several charities.

According to Lisa Rozanski, president, the club’s longtime charities include Mom’s House, Beach House, Hospice of Northwest Ohio, the Northwest Ohio Food Bank, the Ronald McDonald House, Visiting Nurses, and Candlelighters. Recently the 180th Air National Guard Operation Pillow Case and the Walbridge Army National Guard Family Assistance Center were added.

Ms. Rozanski, who has been president for three years, emphasized that in addition to the monthly meetings, members enjoy several activities, including bridge, dominoes, and day trips. The club’s grand collection of teapots will be on display at the annual tea May 5. It is open to the public. Tickets are $15.

Judging chili is my annual fall assignment. Yesterday I was scheduled to judge the contest at Adrian College and in September my taste buds were put to the test with 14 chili entries at the Devils Lake Yacht Club.

I have yet to come upon a chili that is truly authentic Texas chili con carne, which is beef and chili peppers or chili powder. Besides the addition of kidney beans, contestants often stir in surprises.

As an example, fruit and nut chili was the first entry judged at the woman’s club meet. Sliced almonds, raisins, cocoa, apples, curry powder, and cinnamon were included in the ingredients.

The cook, Patricia Ellenwood of Toledo, didn’t take credit for originality, saying she got the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

While the unique combination was intriguing, it was the bowl of red chili made by Pete Rozanski of Lambertville that received the most points on my score sheet which considers consistency, balance of seasonings, and overall judgment, and asks the question, Would I make this chili?

Mr. Rozanski, a champion griller, added mushrooms simply because he likes them. He must also like Yuengling light beer because he added two bottles to the double batch of chili.

The diversity of soup entries made judging them more difficult to evaluate than the chili. The choices included tortilla, potato dill, corn chowder, and beef vegetable, but the entry that drew me back for second and third helpings was the chicken noodle made by Jackie Drouillard of Erie, Mich.

Ms. Drouillard can’t believe that everyone doesn’t begin homemade chicken soup with a whole chicken. “You need the bones for flavor,” she said.

She cooked a three-pound chicken and added a few thighs for good measure. The noodles were frozen Reames.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

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