Food per se is not a department of this magazine, but when it becomes involved with sport it becomes part of our responsibility. The subject may be a new recipe for preparing a game bird, or the specialty at a restaurant where the sporting crowd gathers, or a quest for mushrooms. This week, for instance, we have a story on The Great Chili Championship Fix (page 80), because the food itself is the focus of a sporting contest.
This is an article from the Dec. 11, 1967 issue
Mention chili in almost any gathering and you get an argument. Some hold out for the fiery green-pepper chili of New Mexico, a dish its advocates claim is as good as a steam bath for curing hangovers or clearing the sinuses. Some prefer the Tex-Mex version made with red peppers. Some like it sweeter and blander, with fewer peppers and more tomato sauce. Some want beans in their chili: some do not. There is even an argument about the type of beans. Put kidney beans in a Texan's chili, and he will consider you a fool. Put pinto beans in a New Yorker's chili, and he probably won't know what they are.
Out of such arguments grew a weird sporting event, a chili-making duel between Texas, represented by Columnist Wick Fowler, and New York, whose colors were carried by H. Allen Smith, author of Low Man on a Totem Pole and many other volumes of humor. For an authentic report on this heated contest, we turned to Writer Gary Cartwright and Photographer Shel Hershorn. Both are ardent in their admiration for chili—even though they do not agree on exactly how it should be prepared—but they discovered they were dilettanti compared to Smith, Fowler and several hundred spectators who attended the great cook-off. "I thought if chili was hot enough to make you dance around the table, it was good," said Cartwright, "but I'm just a kid in this field."
Cartwright is a free-lance writer who has worked for five different newspapers in three different cities, has written many magazine articles and is finishing a pro football novel to be published by Doubleday next fall. Among his colleagues he has gained quite a reputation not only for his writing but for his frequently outrageous exploits and his mode of dress—cowboy boots, Levis, sport jacket, button-down shirt, dark glasses and black knit tie. "If I have on a necktie," he explained, "nobody can accuse me of not being a gentleman."
It was Cartwright who, a few years ago, borrowed a waiter's outfit and a tray of bread during a fashion show at a plush country club and, as a large crowd watched, dived off the high board into a swimming pool that was covered with gardenias. "I wanted to see how the people would react," Cartwright said. "But they didn't react at all. They pretended it really hadn't happened." Another time he dressed, up as an Indian and performed a rain dance that was followed by one of the worst floods in Dallas history. "That taught me not to mess with the gods," he said. But even Cartwright was somewhat amazed by the occurrences at the chili-cooking contest. So were we, and we think you will be, too.