At the competition on Kanawha Boulevard last Saturday, those with home-cooked chili were allowed to slide this one last time, but they were told to post signs warning the public the food had not been prepared in a kitchen inspected by the health department.
I can't help but wonder. Do health inspectors go to church potlucks or family reunions?
Perhaps their heightened awareness of what can go wrong causes them to avoid those events. If they do attend, maybe they eat only what they brought themselves.
The chili cookoff participants are no doubt frustrated by the regulators' intrusion into their event. Surely people interested in competitive chili-making take pains to prepare it carefully.
But if you consider the inspector's point of view, things get more complicated. After all, there is meat in chili, and it has been through several phases of preparation by the time it ends up in someone's cup on the boulevard.
After being purchased at the store, it presumably has been stored in a refrigerator. For how long? It has been cooked in the chili pot and then cooled before being refrigerated again.
Again, for how long? Then it has been transported to the cookoff. How long did that take? It is reheated on portable equipment and served over a period of several hours.
Most of us place great trust in others to do the right thing in a wide variety of situations. If we didn't, we wouldn't be able to buy meat at all, much less attend a chili cookoff. There is risk at every turn.
So, yes, it seems extreme when party-pooping inspectors show up at a fun time on the Boulevard.
But we don't really want them to stop looking out for us, do we?
Because of their many rules for the safe handling of food, and their enforcement of those rules, we can pretty well count on sitting down in a restaurant, ordering a meal and being served something that won't make us ill. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are rare.
I hope the chili cooks will adjust and be back in full force next year. The event would be missed by many if they were daunted.
Meanwhile, I googled "raw eggs in icing" and picked up a tip. I can use pasteurized egg next time and reduce the small risk posed to my co-workers.
I probably still won't win the contest.
Friend is editor and publisher of the Daily Mail. She may be reached at 348-5124 or nan...@dailymail.com.