The Big Chil

Bikers, gourmands, 30,000 country fans, and bare boobies collide at a massive chili cook-off. Bottoms up!

They don't indulge in costumes. "We're here to cook chili," Robert Bigge says. But they're so dedicated and earnest that it's hard not to root for this family. Last year, Robert donated his $500 first-place winnings to the cook-off's chosen charity, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County. With all the booths' registration fees going to the charity, the cook-off raised nearly $15,000 this year, organizers said.

"We have a formula that works," Gina explains as she spreads a blanket on the grass for Jack. She's finally comfortable, now that she and her kids are safely bivouacked. "They had us park in East Guam," she says. They had to walk through the parking lot gamut outside, past the bare butts and such. "People on bullhorns, shouting freakin' this and freakin' that. And I'm with my kids." She apparently managed to channel her emotion into her cooking. The chili doesn't have the beautiful, earthy red of her husband's recipe, but her beef has melded perfectly with the spices, and its heat blooms like an orchid in the back of the throat.

If there's such a thing as revenge chili, this may be it.

Young, Angie Fox, and Kalar basked in their hard-won certificate.
Deirdra Funcheon
Young, Angie Fox, and Kalar basked in their hard-won certificate.
Robert Bigge added further hardware to his trophy pile.
Colby Katz
Robert Bigge added further hardware to his trophy pile.

While the human mouth contains perhaps 10,000 taste buds scattered around the tongue, cheeks, and lips, the human chest features just two thin covers to the lactiferous ducts, and those are nearly as responsive to temperature changes as the delicate sensors in the mouth.

Hence, at noontime, in the Dirty White Boys' tent, here is a 42-year-old bearded, leather-jacketed Dane named Claus Jensen jamming his arm deep into the ice cubes of a cooler. Jensen is a modern-day Renaissance man. He speaks six languages -- seven, if you allow that saying "give me a blowjob" in Italian constitutes functional fluency in that particular tongue -- and he understands physiology enough to explain why he pours ice water into his Super Soaker: "It makes their nipples get harder."

By this time, noonish, the world has aligned itself to Jensen's and the rest of the Dirty White Boys' anatomical experiments. The sun is up, and it is hot. The beer has been flowing all day. The girls, by and large, are dressed for the weather, many sporting the kind of curves that testify to the power of the bovine hormones in milk these days.

Jensen sits on a cooler under the tent and fires streams of frigid water onto the chests of practically any female between the ages of 17 and 50. Some duck and flee, but most appear to appreciate the attention. As he sprays one pretty young brunette in a pink-and-white bikini top and pink cowboy hat, she leans into it, then turns to invite water onto her back.

The bald Moore, perched on a bike a few feet away, calls her over and implores her to bare just one breast, reasoning that if you've seen one, you've seen them both.

"Hey, did you see my shirt?" he asks her.

She leans closer, and makes out the red stitching on his overalls, behind his Mardi Gras beads. "Please tell your tits to stop staring at my eyes," she reads aloud. "I like that!"

"I like those," Moore replies, but his flattery falls flat.

Moore's chili pedigree goes back to living in North Carolina with his father, who would greet trespassers with rock salt fired from a shotgun and who cooked a mean squirrel- and duck-based Brunswick stew. As a young man, Moore lived for a spell in Houston, where chili was cooked in pots big enough to stir with an oar and accompanied with plenty of raw peppers and cornbread. He attended the first cook-off 20 years ago, as a hired hammer, to build a booth for a friend. Eventually, he joined as a competitor. After experimenting with alligator meat ("My friends are poachers," he says), he won the whole shebang in 2000 with a mixture of steak, chicken, and Jimmy Dean pork sausage ground up on-site.

With his five dollar squirt gun tucked under one arm, Moore tends his pot, which keeps coughing steam puffs, roiling like fresh lava. "This shit's gonna win," he says. "I'm winning this year."

Moore and Lambert, his goateed chum, maintain a friendly but intense rivalry when it comes to chili. A couple of yards away, Lambert stirs his pot, which roils over a propane burner. He takes his Marlboro Light out of his mouth and makes a scolding sound, as if he were telling a 2-year-old to keep his finger out of his nose. It seems to unnerve Moore.

"Fuck you, you asshole," Moore says. "Your shit looks like Walt Disney threw up on it."

"This is Walt Disney," Lambert retorts. Then he questions whether Moore won the contest in 2000 "with that Hormel 7-Eleven hot dog shit?" Lambert derived his chili chops from his pop, who on Sundays would concoct huge pots of chili for his four kids. His parents moved from Baltimore to Virginia when he was 16 years old, and Lambert elected to live on his own to finish high school. Cooking for himself, he survived on chili that usually served as a depository for whatever leftover condiments he had in the fridge. "It's an old bachelor trick," he says. "Any guy that makes chili will tell you it's just a matter of grabbing shit, throwing it in there, and seeing if it tastes good."

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