One of the last in-person events at UUCW, only a week or so before the pandemic hit, was our annual pledge/story slam. What a fun night that was! Gathered around festive tables in the sanctuary, freely sharing food and drink, and listening with rapt attention to storytellers, singers, and musicians — little did we know how quickly things would change. Now, after a year and a half of pandemic, we are as hungry for community as we are for tasty chili. “Food is always a great way to come together and this cook-off event is really just a fun way to kick back and re-connect,” said Leslie Peterson, a member of the Stewardship planning team. UUCW protocols will keep everyone as safe as possible without tamping down the joy. With outdoor chili tasting, fun prizes, and bake sale goods, “we’re going for a casual, tail-gate type of vibe.”

Like UUCW, chile peppers are diverse in nature and character, with distinct, colorful personalities. One of the spiciest is the “finger chile” or cayenne that someone might sprinkle into chili con carne. But not the ghost pepper. Ten times hotter than the formidable jalapeño, it is so blistering it can be used only sparingly in a chutney or curry. Have no fear: many peppers are mild enough to savor while adding a bit of tangy zing, such as the banana pepper or serrano. Likewise, among the different “chiles” in our UUCW community are those who, like a red or green bell pepper, become sweeter as they mature. Some of us are as mild as an Anaheim red chile; others are like poblanos bursting into flavor as the occasion requires. Much-loved cherry peppers are bright red, sweet, and shaped like a heart. There are chiles in jerks, of course, and marinades. But if you can get past the “oomph” of a habañero, say, or hang out long enough with an easy-going rocoto, you’ll discover their full flavors. You might savor our community’s chilacas (meaning “grey-haired”), so named for their wizened, wrinkly appearance that adds depth to any dish. And don’t think our smallest UUs can’t take – or deliver – the heat. Adorable Piri Piri’s and tiny Thai chilis are pure firecrackers! We love them all.

Bright and pointed upward, chiles grow toward the sun, so it is in their nature to evoke spiritual community. No matter the type of chile you like best, all contribute powerfully to our good health with properties that stimulate circulation and prevent aches and pains. To fortify ourselves against the isolation and suffering brought on by the pandemic, we need community. We truly hope you will take a moment this week to reach out and invite all your old and new friends, at UUCW and in your social circles, to come to the Chili Cook-Off on October 9, 4-6 pm. Don’t miss this chance!

Let’s eat chili and make community together. RVSP HERE or in person at the Chili Cook-Off Table after Sunday service at UU Church West.

Questions or want to help? Contact a member of our Stewardship Committee: Lynn Kapitan, Leslie Peterson, or Jeannie Baker.