As I moved through the tables, I was constantly impressed by the talent of my new neighbors. I couldn’t believe that a woman like me, someone who was not much for chili, was suddenly plunging head-first into this cookoff and having a blast! There were a few competitors who ran out of samples before I arrived, but that was fine with me. I met the lovely woman who owns The Blazer with her family right before I came across the next handsome competitor. His name was Jesse, and his chili was actually made from brisket – I’d never heard of such a thing, and it was delicious! Sadly, he proudly told me his wife made the bread served at the event, so he was off-limits, too.
After tasting my last sample from George’s dad (George is only two, so his dad was clearly spoken for), I headed to the center of the auditorium to grab a few tortilla chips. This table was chili-free, and there was an ornate box with a slot cut out of the top. Undoubtedly, this was where attendees would place their chili votes. More intriguing still was the bouquet of flowers strategically placed next to the box. Could those scented beauties have been left by an admirer? Is there a chance they were for me? There was no note, so I stood nearby in case Mr. Right was watching and waiting for me to arrive.
Before I could blush, a young woman approached a nearby microphone. The big moment of the night had arrived. It was time to announce the Chili Cook-Off winner. There were speeches and acknowledgments, and the winner was eventually announced – for the first time ever, there was a two-way tie between Jesse and Graeme Fouste, last year’s winner who was wearing his golden ladle around his neck. I was there to witness history!
The crowd took to their feet and erupted in applause. I joined in, cheering with all the enthusiasm I could muster…and there he was.
A dark-haired gentleman was clapping to my left. He smiled a chiseled, dimpled smile, cheering the winners of the night. I tried to continue my own applause, but I was feeling a little faint.
“Hi,” he said, turning to face me. “Quite a night, huh?”
“Yes. Some delicious recipes,” I replied, extending my hand towards his.
I was ready to introduce myself, ready to invite him for a drink at The Whitlock following the event, ready for chapter one of our fairy tale to begin.
And then it happened – my skin began to burn and there was a sharp pain in my stomach, like a kick to my torso. Suddenly it dawned on me: the capsaicin allergy! I was nauseous, and I knew what was coming next. This was not good, not good at all.
“I’m sorry, but what’s your name again?” asked the dark-haired man.
I tried to answer. I wanted to answer. I needed to answer. But the pain grew much worse. My mind ran through what I’d ingested over the past hour – the peppers, the spice, the wine. It was all coming together right now…and I knew what would happen next. Our time was up.
I smiled as best I could and then ran, fast, leaving the dark-haired handsome stranger behind. I darted to the nearest bathroom and was relieved to find it empty. Sometime later, I returned to the auditorium but the room was dark and quiet. The tables had been folded up and the competitors were gone. In fact, there was no one left.
As I walked back to my car (the only one in the parking lot by now), I thought about my second encounter with the dark-haired handsome man. There was kismet between us, that was obvious. But he slipped through my fingers yet again. There will be another chance, I can feel it.
I was promised a spicy night in Katonah, and I got one. Perhaps not exactly as I had hoped, but my search for love would continue on – I know Mr. Right is out there, waiting. I turned up the music in my car as I drove home. My stomach did a somersault. I raced even faster into the night.
Until next time my dear neighbors,