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Cookoff memories through changing times and focus

As one of the few survivors of Lakeside’s very first chili cookoff, this weekend’s 42nd edition conjures up lots of bittersweet memories.

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Having attended every Mexican National Cookoff in one capacity or another since its inception, I suffer a certain angst that the event has maintained this dubious title after it was totally revamped just over a decade ago.

I regret that the focus on serious chili competition somehow got lost in the shuffle once the cookoff was reinvented into something more akin to a commercial country fair. In recent years organizers have had a hard time rustling up contestants. I wonder why they don’t go the whole hog for another overhaul with a different name and introduce contests in comfort foods like meatloaf and mac-and-cheese, or homemade jams and pickled stuff, baked goods, or anything that might stir greater interest in the culinary arts.

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