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Monday, Sep 01, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Forget world problems, it’s time to focus on chili

Published:

On this first day in November, I suppose there are more important things to consider than chili.

The other day I attended our company’s health care enrollment meeting and discovered it was going to cost our family more than double what it was last year. So far the Affordable Health Care Act hasn’t quite lived up to its billing.

Every day there seems to be another revelation of government spying or merely gathering information on all of us. I’m surprised we still have to fill out any forms for anything as it seems all of our personal information must be on file somewhere.

The war is still going on in Afghanistan, although it has all but disappeared from the news.

The politicians are already pretending the government shutdown and threats of economic collapse never happened and the campaigns are heating up.

And if all of that isn’t enough to get you depressed, the Bucs are headed out to Seattle still looking for a win midway through the season.

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So I’m ignoring it this weekend to consider chili.

Today is the final day to enter the 24th Annual Steve Otto Chili Contest on Nov. 16 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. This week it was announced that Montana Fletch and Bronco Barnes were joining an already elite team of judges that also includes Sandsnake Paterno and our own food giant Jeff Houck, among some more civilized types who have real credentials in the food world.

If you haven’t entered this event with its $1,000 first prize and unequaled glory in the chili world, you should Google up “Smoke on the River Chili’’ today. It will cure what ails you.

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As a warm-up, so to speak, you might consider joining me Saturday in beautiful downtown Lutz where they are celebrating their centennial with a chili contest. Several of my judges will also be on hand out there, including Pat “Mojo’’ Harpe, Pinetop Peterson and Ranger Ross. It’s all happening around the old train station.

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Speaking of food, which we frequently do in this space, I was privileged earlier in the week to attend the annual Hillsborough Meals on Wheels luncheon at the Tampa Bay History Center.

I got to sit next to Amy Shimberg, who showed up despite being in obvious pain after breaking her arm the day before. She has been making food deliveries for this great organization for 37 years and she wasn’t going to miss this.

I think what makes Meals on Wheels so important is that it serves a population most of us never see.

We know about the poor and the homeless, but there is another group that remains hidden away, unable to move about or take care of themselves.

These are people, mostly seniors or disabled, who often do not come into contact with anyone else. They may only have that one meal brought to them by someone from Meals on Wheels.

In many situations the person from Meals on Wheels will be their only contact with the world outside their locked doors. If you’re looking for an organization to give some time serving, Meals on Wheels would be a great opportunity to serve our community.

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