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  • Helen Currie Foster

5th Annual Spicewood BBQ and Chili Cook Off

Ghost Next Door, about to be released as the fifth novel in the Alice MacDonald Greer Mystery series, takes readers to the first official barbecue cook-off in Coffee Creek. Research required, of course! That included driving with my husband to the 5th Annual Spicewood BBQ and Chili Cook Off, held out under spreading live oaks, with music in the air.

We walked past big smokers, where contestants tended brisket, then into the historic Spicewood community center—a 1907 schoolhouse, now restored. Announcement over the loudspeaker: “Volunteers needed to judge chili!” Yes!

I raced to the table, joining a dozen others. And listened hard to the rules, because this is way serious business, conducted by officials with decades of experience in state-wide competitions.

Okay, the rules (Lonestar Barbecue Society style):

No talking about any entry! Discussing entries is absolutely forbidden.

Judge each entry as it’s passed to you from the judge on your left! This is your only chance. No do-overs, no later re-tastes.

Judge all parameters! First, look and sniff: Color? appearance? aroma? Then take a small bite. (Small because you’ve got a dozen entries still to go!) Taste? texture? aftertaste?

Write your score. Keep your scorecard private.

Cleanse your palate between entries! Hovering officials offer cheese, saltines, grapes, Tecate…

Later we watched a solemn procession of anxious contestants presenting brisket entries, slices carefully arranged in the required disposable take-out boxes, to the solemn-faced judges.

A beautiful day. Breezes—both fresh and smoky—rustling the live oaks. Tummy full of chili, some of it prize-winning. Ears ringing with music. Check out this great apron. Folks, it’s an event.

P.S. Watch for Ghost Next Door!

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