So far, March has proven to be springlike in name but not in weather, and winter no longer holds the excitement that came with the first snow of the season. This is the time when I always find I need a little help to get through the final stretch before spring sets in for good.
This week, that help came in the form of chili (necessitating a little detour from the bread series, which will return next week).
Last Saturday, the town of Middlebury nearly vanished beneath throngs of people in the streets, sampling chili. It was the town’s second annual Winter Carnival chili competition, and personally, I wouldn’t have wanted to try driving through town at any point during the afternoon. The upper part of Main Street was closed off, and all along the lower part, the crowds waiting to get chili samples at the tables scattered along the sidewalk spilled out into the street. The people in cars did not look happy.
The day was sunny but cold, a reminder that winter would still have a hold on Vermont for at least a few more weeks. But winter’s sly reminder was easily overshadowed by the 76 types of chili, a capella and folk music performances, a DJ, sled dog demonstrations and a juggling act. Plus Mardi Gras beads.
In short, it’s hard to imagine anything that could put me more at ease with the idea of a couple more weeks of winter. To me, chili is the ultimate winter comfort food — warm, spicy, hearty and — with cheese, sour cream and cornbread — enough to put you into hibernation mode for several weeks. So sampling all 76 types was out of the question, but I certainly tried my hardest.
And though the votes are already in, and have been for almost a week now, I’d just like to draw attention to a few of the smaller pleasures of the afternoon. For one, the sign in Autumn Gold’s window “Free Tums.” There was the Tully and Marie’s offering, called “Chili con Bambi,” containing — you guessed it — venison. And the creative garnishes. My roommate and I talked about the Two Brothers’ maple sour cream the whole way home.
Just a couple days later, I found myself at the Orwell Town Hall on Town Meeting Day. Between the town and school meetings, there was a lunch downstairs to benefit the Orwell Parade Committee, where there were two chilis and a corn chowder on the menu.
Watching the town eat together was a smaller (and less competitive) version of the Middlebury chili event. And it wasn’t simple enjoyment of a winter comfort food — it was people coming together over a good, hearty meal, forgetting all about budgets and bonds for an hour.
So even though I know you’re not supposed to eat your emotions, sometimes a good helping of chili is really the best cure for those late winter blues.
Andrea does reporting and online media for the Addison Independent. You can find her on Twitter here or see other Table Talk entries here. Feel free to weigh in on this post or suggest future topics, either in the comments section below or at andreas [at] addisonindependent.com.