Comments & Curiosities: Candidates to swap suits for aprons

August 28, 2010|By Peter Buffa

It's a funny business, politics. Of course that depends on your definition of funny.

There's the campaigns, the mail, the debates, and every now and then, the chili cook-off.

In the race for the 68th Assembly District, Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor (Republican) and Phu Nguyen (Democrat) have decided to set aside arguing about who has the best plan to save California and replace it with arguing about who has the best chili, just for this weekend anyway.

Both men have agreed to fight it out, bean to bean, at the sixth annual Halecrest Chili Cook-off, which takes place from noon to 4 p.m. today at Halecrest Park in Costa Mesa. At first, it might seem a little odd — having Mansoor, whose ancestry is Egyptian and Scandinavian, and Nguyen, whose ancestry is Vietnamese, cooking up a storm in a chili cook-off.


Then again, why not?

Chili is a patchwork of cultures and ingredients itself. It's a dish that most people love, some people are passionate about and is almost impossible to define. Mention chili in a group of six people or more and you'll get an earful of opinions hotter than a habanero pepper stuffed with cayenne and dipped in Tabasco.

Try it. Next time you're with some of your peeps, ask everyone for their favorite chili recipe. It won't take long for the groaning and the shouting to start. The first person that says "beans" will be yelled at and ridiculed by the "Texas purists" — more on them later.

Anyone who suggests a meatless chili or a turkey or chicken chili will elicit howls of protests. Everyone has a different idea of what chili should be and everyone is convinced their idea is right. For today's chili smackdown at Halecrest Park, Nguyen is tossing tradition to the winds and whipping up a chili with a decided Far Eastern twist. His entry will be built with Vietnamese ingredients, including that tangy Asian favorite — fish sauce.

"Actually, I have never made chili this way, and so it's going to be a fusion of several recipes," Nguyen told the Daily Pilot.

Mansoor is going with more of a freestyle approach and an emphasis on the fun factor.

"It's always nice to win, but I think the main point of the event is to get out and meet everyone in the community and just have a nice day," Mansoor said.

We'll see how it all turns out, but here is my question: Where did chili come from and how do you know when it's "real" — two questions I know I will be sorry I asked, but near-total ignorance has never stopped me before.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles