The year was (about) 1990.

The CCAF Emblem
The CCAF Emblem

I was serving as Chief of the Computer Division at the Community College of the Air Force, and the staff there decided to have a chili contest. There were to be three categories — the best chili, the worst chili, and the hottest chili.

Preparing the Chili

At the time, I had a friend, Gene, whose wife was from Thailand.

Now if you haven’t had Thai food, you might not know that Thai peppers make jalapenos seem like gherkins.

With this in mind, I decided to go for the hottest chili.

My friend Gene is one of those who likes really hot, spicy food. However, when his wife brought over her Thai peppers and seasoned my chili entry, then pronounced it ready with tears streaming down her cheeks, Gene refused to taste it.

Needless to say, I declined tasting it as well.


At the contest, the three judges were the president and vice-president of the college (a colonel and a lieutenant colonel), who were both from Texas, and therefore considered themselves worthy judges, and the dean of students (a civilian), who was recruited as a reluctant third judge.

They judged the “Best” and “Worst” categories first, with appropriate comments, to the amusement of most of the rest of the staff, who was watching the process.

When they got to the “Hottest Chili” category, my entry was number three in the tasting lineup.

They tasted the first entry, made suitable “Whoo, that’s hot!” noises, and made some annotations on their note pads. They tasted the second entry with similar responses.

When they got to my entry, they looked at each other, nodded, and each took a spoonful. For two seconds, there was silence as they stared blankly ahead. Then, as if it were choreographed, all three got up together and headed for the water cooler. No second taste was necessary.


The fact that I won that contest isn’t what was funny. What was funny is what happened next.

As a fund raising project, the college was selling bowls of the chili prepared for the contest to college staff members and to staff members of neighboring units. There were two bowls of my chili sitting abandoned on the table by the trash can. One spoonful was all the purchasers could tolerate.

However, there was a young clerk trainee from the Chaplain’s school across the street who seemed to like it. He ate an entire bowl of the hottest chili. He ate the whole thing, tears streaming down his face the entire time. Then he went back and bought another bowl.

I couldn’t believe it. The kid must have had an asbestos stomach.


The man who came in second in the hottest chili contest must have had some sour grapes left over from his entry. He said, “Next year, we’re going to have a rule that everyone who enters is required to eat a bowl of their own chili!”

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