Friday, March 09, 2007

Y2K And The Leipers Fork Chili Cook-Off

All this hoopla about a new mini-Y2K tomorrow night is hilarious. Apparently, since Congress has moved daylight savings time up a few weeks, our computers are supposed to freak out when they wake up Sunday morning and find they lost an hour from their system clock. Then, they will proceed to shut down the world.

I remember the craziness of Y2K very well- the endless stupid meetings at the office to talk through contingency plans, the insane dollars spent on back-up, back-up, back-up generators, data storage facilities, even some talk of turning our office building into a refuge for staff and family if things spun out of control and the order of law collapsed. I had friends, you probably did too, that spent large sums of money on emergency food, water, and even weapons. It was a bit too wacky to be funny.

I must admit that I got pulled along with them just a bit. I did buy one thing- a small propane stove to cook with if for some reason the power went out for a day or two. The package came via UPS and was promptly stored, unopened, on the top shelf of our garage storage unit. And unopened it stayed until the day my mom called with a strange request several years later.

On a Friday night mom rang me up and asked if I still had that propane stove I bought for Y2K- she wanted to borrow it to use for the Leipers Fork Chili Cook-Off she had entered. I guess I never pictured anyone from our family being a chili cook-off kind of person. Somehow those people just seem very different than most normal folk. I always picture them as men with massive barrel chests, giant handle-bar mustaches soaked in BBQ sauce, and chomping on a cigar while reaching into a giant cast-iron kettle to rustle up some fixins. The thought of mom going at it was a very funny image in my mind.

Yes mom- I still have it- somewhere- and you’re welcome to use it. The next question she asked- would I please help her cook the chili- was a bit harder to agree to, but I did. I just hoped no one I knew would roll-on up to the chili bar while I had my big chef hat on.

Saturday morning broke perfect- sunny, cool, breezy, with the smell of onions and beef detectable in the air even though our home is almost 2 miles from “downtown” Leipers Fork. Mom arrived on time (as in late) and I grabbed the dusty box containing the propane stove and threw it in my truck. Off we headed to our appointed spot along the main road in Leipers Fork. The road would be closed to traffic soon so the huge crowd that would show up could wander along and sample chili from the 30 or so booths.

We unloaded our boxes of ingredients, coolers of meat, and all the other items necessary to make my moms non-award (we hoped to change that) winning chili. My father unloaded and set up his 10x10 outdoor canopy and tables. As we were unloading our items I looked around at the other more professional looking contestants and noticed the tools of their trade. Massive iron cookers, huge outdoor stoves that made a sounds like jet-engines, and huge vats of steaming liquids. It was quite impressive.

As mom pulled out her giant stainless steel pan (probably 1 ½ feet wide and 2 ½ feet tall), I was glad we had at least ONE thing that would make it look like we belonged here. I then went for the propane stove and cracked open the box. Interesting. All I could see in the box were canisters of propane that looked like large cans of hairspray. I started taking them out…kept taking them out…at a certain point I thought there was no way there was actually a stove in here. Sure enough, it was there. At the bottom. A small white box tucked under all the hairspray cans, approximately 3 inches tall and 5 inches wide. Inside that little box was a giant massive propane stove, assuming mom was Barbie and I was Ken. My heart sank. We had a problem.

The large pan we had wouldn’t even balance on the mini-stove unless someone held it the entire time. It looked hilarious. Our chili cookin’ neighbors could barely contain their laughter. As I held the pan and mom threw in butter and onions and cilantro, dad rushed to his house to load up the only thing they had that could possibly help us cook the chili- their outdoor grill. He loaded it into the back of his truck, straped it on clumsily with bungee-cords, and rushed back. By the time he got back, about an hour later, we had just managed to melt the first pats of butter thrown in the pan using the propane ‘stove.’

We were a sight. One single giant pan. Doll house propane stove. Big broken rusty backyard barbeque grill. 3 goofballs rushing to get the chili done by the 11AM shotgun start. We barely made it.

The chili turned out surprisingly good. We had tons of positive comments from the hundreds of people passing by, and came close to winning the people’s choice award. Not bad. We won’t be doing it again.

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Timothy Frazier said...

Being in the computer services industry myself, I've had a busy few weeks getting ready for the "mini-Y2k". I must admit I took advantage of the Year 2000 issue and talked my wife into letting me buy a new firearm, knowing all the while that it was likely going to be one of the biggest non-events in history. I still enjoy taking my AR15 to the range and target shooting on a fairly regular basis. I haven't gotten anything out of this new "crisis" though. I just can't think of a plausable reason that a time sensitive computer problem would create a need for another peice of woodworking machinery.

DigitalRich said...

Woodworker too, huh? Man I love doing it, but I just havent had the time to devote to it so I get better. I still struggle and find I make many mistakes. Things I have made are good, but not great.

When (and if) I retire, that will become my new work.