As a college student, there are very few things that will get me out of bed when it is below 35 degrees. None are quite as compelling as mandatory class, weekend revelries and food. But no ordinary food will do. Because, as any veteran of a winter on the Hill knows, in February a packet of Ramen from under your bed, or ordering in so some other sad person can walk through the “wintry mix,” will suffice. It takes special food to get on the parka, scarf, hat, mittens, wool socks, boots and fleece-lined pants. And trust me, those fleece-lined pants are necessary.
Chili. Yes, chili. The feel-good, warms-your-soul, spicy, smoky, however-you-like-it, pile-it-high-with-as-many-toppings-as-you-can-think-of chili. And I get out of bed for the chili at Hamilton’s FebFest Chili Cook-off every single year.
Student and faculty chefs dressed in bright blue aprons place crock-pots amid overflowing baskets of chips and toppings. And then it begins: Haggard students, war-torn from the cold, eagerly fill bowls with every kind of hearty goodness imaginable. From venison to vegetarian, cayenne to curried, and mild to my-mouth-is-on-fire: It’s all there. However, the Cook-off isn’t all fun and games. It’s serious business, and real competitors have one thing on their minds: the chili-fied glory of winning the ultimate honor of first place. Content patrons finish off the last of their chili as the final ballots are turned in. But even though there can only be one first place, I’d say everybody wins when there’s free chili involved.