Ferndale Golden Eagles Marching Band Marchapalooza Chili Cookoff 2012

Ferndale Band and Chili News—by Lisa Sinnett


As the reigning champion of the Ferndale Golden Eagle Marching Band Marchapalooza fundraising chili cook-off I have been asked by numerous (3) people for the recipe, which I will attempt to describe for you here.

These are the steps I took.

  1. First of all, quit your job as a teacher in a large, chaotic urban school district. Learn that you are not still a leech, sucking the lifeblood out of the public trough. Realize that you, while not young anymore, still have something to contribute to society.
  2. Decide to contribute, this time positively, to society. (Unlike your former colleagues, the socialist union members who are greedily earning pensions and taking their children to the dentist)
  3. Step Three. Set your mind to chili preparation. While in Safety Training at your new job, play with your new iphone until you find a chili recipe.
  4. This is what you can start with, courtesy of www.eatingwell.com

Beef and Bean Chile Verde



  • o 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
  • o 1 large red bell pepper-chopped
  • o 1 large onion chopped
  • o 6 cloves of garlic chopped
  • o 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • o ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • o 1 16 ounce jar green salsa, green enchilada sauce or taco sauce
  • o ¼ cup water
  • o 1 15 oz can pinto or kidney beans, rinsed


  1. Of course, If you do not have all of the requisite ingredients, and rather than being innovative with the questionable ground turkey in the back of the fridge and the chili starter spice kit, * go to Meijers Thrifty Acres**


*Never, I repeat, never use a chili starter spice kit. The anti caking ingredients taste like feet, pre bath. Not that I recommend tasting feet, pre bath.

** That’s Meijer for all you non-Michiganders. Michiganders add the letter “s” to all businesses that do not already contain an “S”. Those businesses that already contain an “s” at the end are left alone.


For example:

Correct: “I worked at Fords before they shut the factory down.”

“I got fired from Walmarts for trying to start a union.”


But not:

“I fed all of my children for eight dollars at the dollar menu at McDonalds’s”


That’s just a cultural note about Michigan for you.


Back to the Chili


  1. Warning. If you are a vegetarian, stop reading.
  2. If you forget your shopping list, look up the recipe again on your iphone. Words may be a little small and hard to read, so approximate some of the ingredients. Don’t get cumin mixed up with cinnamon.
  3. Pile the ingredients in your cart as called for, in proportion.  But then stare at a five-pound tube of ground chuck for fifteen dollars. You are cooking to raise money for…The Marching Band, right? It’s not too much smaller than your youngest when she was born, and with a similar weight and heft. Think about that for a second. Really think about that. Face it. It’s starting to bother you, this meat thing. Wrap it up in a box and kick it out of your mind, just like Mormons who have “I might be gay” thoughts. Buy the giant tube of ground chuck anyway, then speed your cart away from the meat section
  4. Go Home. You still have an hour before you have to pick the children up from Marching Band Practice. You could start the chili because you know it says 30 minutes preparation time. Nothing takes 30 minutes.
  5. Go out to your garage, and take out your shiny green bike (your last purchase on your teacher dollars from the Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop) and go for a ride. Thank the stars that when you left Detroit, another defector who heaved herself over 8 mile with treasonous thoughts and exhaustion, you landed in Ferndale. (Home of the Ferndale Golden Eagles Marching Band.)
  6. Ride your bike around and around Ferndale and its environs; a mini tour is a quick four-mile loop. (Measurements not exact, sort of like the chili cooking)
  7. Start on the East side of Woodward. Some of your new coworkers have informed you that when you say things like north, west and south, they hear: Blah Blah Blah Pleasant Ridge. Blah Blah Blah Oak Park. They want to hear. Left. Right. Straight. So here it is for your new coworkers, a perfect four-mile quick bike ride in four cities: Blah blah blah Pleasant Ridge. Turn Left. Blah Blah Blah. Oak Park. Turn Left. Blah Blah Blah. Royal Oak Township.
  8. Head back to Ferndale, passing the Ferndale High School football field. (Official site of the Ferndale Golden Eagle Marching Band practice) Look at your children marching about. Remember the chili fundraiser. Head home, endorphins synapsing and inspired for cooking.


Cooking the Chili

  1. Get a giant pot and start browning the meat. Add things like an onion. Look at the large quantity of meat, and then realize that you have to quintuple the recipe. Chop up five onions and two green peppers (you are out of red peppers) and make a note. Need more vegetables.
  2. Everything is starting to smell pretty good, but you realize you need 30 cloves of garlic. You have never made this much chili in your life. Get a little nervous. Pop open a jar of pre-chopped garlic and spoon in 30 teaspoons of garlic? Empty the jar into the pot instead. It’s easier and not so much math.
  3. Start adding everything else. Do proper math, quintupling everything. It should be ok. Sautee the crunchy items in with the beef until it is browned, then add the spices.
  4. As far as the enchilada sauce, choose the little cans in the Mexican food section. With this giant quantity of meat, the recipe calls for 80 ounces of green salsa. You only had half this much, and the chili was not green.


Here’s the situation

Five pounds of ground beef

5 onions

2 green peppers

1 small jar of garlic

3 table spoons of chili powder

42 oz of green tomatillo salsa from the Mexican Section


It hasn’t cooked together like you remember chili is supposed to and it’s midnight. (Clearly not ½ hour after you started) and it’s even a little tasteless. You’re afraid it’s not going well. At this point, it’s time for bed. It can cook down in the slow cooker tomorrow, while you are at work.

Go to work in Southwest Detroit where you are part of a team that is starting an Early Head Start. Drive past the building that used to be a school that’s now boarded up and looks like a scene in the movie Detropia. In your mind, reject all hipster depictions of Detroit as ghetto porn. Remember the school the way it used to be, full of children in matching jumpers and say to yourself. “I remember Detroit WHOLE.” Have another crisis of consciousness as you cross 8 mile into Ferndale.

It’s been nine hours. It’s time to bring the chili to the chili cook off.


The Hail Mary Steps


  1. Smell the burning chili as you walk into the house. Freak out, just a little bit.
  2. Pour, don’t scrape, the watery, tasteless portion of the chili out of the crock-pot and into a giant pan. Never scrape burned meat from the bottom of the pan. It will not taste Cajun. It will taste and smell like “eau de burned and scraped Teflon meat.”
  3.  Consider NOT bringing chili to the football field. Then remember your pledge to yourself to participate in your children’s life since you now have a life because you are no longer a beleaguered, targeted, hard-working public servant.
  4. Call Heather. Tell her of your chili angst. Make her promise to come over and taste your watery, tasteless chili.
  5. Go into rescue chili mode, keeping Heather’s advice in mind. (Search cupboards for chili-like substances, including cornstarch, the universal thickening agent. OR did she say corn flour?)
  6. Make small religious appeal to preferred deity*.
  • Atheists and pagans can do eenie meeie miny mo between the cornstarch and the corn flour, call Heather again, Google it, or find a soothing song on your ipod while reflecting on the origin of food like this: The members of the Ferndale Golden Eagle Marching Band are known to put Corn Starch in their shoes to dry out the sweat. Chili Starter Kits smell like feet. Corn flour comes from Jiffy Corn Muffins. Jiffy corn muffins are food.
  1. To hot, watery chili, slowly add in Corn Flour until Heather gets to your house and tells you it’s enough. Start with a few tablespoons.
  2. Add secret ingredient. Two HOT chipotle peppers in Adobo, chopped fine. (If you ever get your chili to the right consistency, this will add an amazing KICK to the chili, a kick at the end of the bite. The chipotle waits. It’s amazing)
  3. In your cupboard digging, find ¾ ounces of Motor City Food Products* Chili Spices, Cuz 1-75 doesn’t go to Texas flavor, Made in Michigan Rio Grande Medium Flavor. Squint at small print; continue resisting wearing your glasses. For this amount of meat, you still need about 2 oz of spices. Dump it all in. *
  • If you want to eat delicious, easy food that doesn’t taste like it came in the box, try the spice vendors at the Eastern Market or the Royal Oak Farmers Market. They’ll even give you shopping lists and recipes. (Sorry Trader Joes and Whole Paycheck. You know I still love you)
  1.  Add two small cans of Mexican corn you found at the back of the cupboard, and for good measure, the rest of the salsa that nobody in your family will eat because it’s not fresh from the Honeybee Market on West Vernor in Southwest Detroit.
  2. Take a canned bean census. DO NOT put garbanzo beans into chili until you know the people a little better and they will eat your food even if it tastes weird. You are not in this situation. In fact, you’ve been having anxious, weird, déjà vu I’m back in high school vibes ever since you’ve been a Marching Band mom.
  3. Open the door and let Heather in. (who you’ve known since grade school and is granted immunity from weird, high school déjà vu vibes)
  4. She’s brought can of black beans. Add the beans
  5. Stir and wait, everything simmering together.
  6. Have a cup of coffee, telling Heather of your high school angst.
  7. Be eternally grateful that you have a friend whose kindness surpasses your level of self-doubt and awkwardness.
  8. Taste the chili. Move to put it in the fridge for your family to eat later, after the cook off.
  9. Watch Heather load the chili into the car.
  10. Take the chili to the cook off. There are already ten chili pots on the table, but there is ONE plug left on the power strip. It’s for your chili.
  11. Eat a lot of cinnamon chili, pumpkin chili and chili #9.
  12. Compare your crock-pot (small, metal, dinged) to the others. (Large, porcelain, chrome) and kick at the dirt with your feet.
  13. Convince your occasionally awesome boyfriend/partner to buy chili and stuff the ballot boxes, which he refuses to stuff on principle.
  14. Instead, he surprises you and votes for your “Two Alarm Mexican Chili by Trumpet Section/Pit Pup Mama” on its own merits.
  15. So apparently, do a lot of other people. YOUR CHILI WINS!
  16. Thrust your prize, The Killer Chili Cookbook up in the air and scream “Thank you, populace, for your VOTE!” Careen around, and realize that you haven’t actually ever won first place at anything you actually MADE that nourishes PEOPLE. Think about that fine, University of Michigan education you’ll be paying for until you are a member of the AARP and beyond.
  17. Remember for a second all the money you owe, and how awkward you felt when you bumbled that conversation with the guy with the hat, how dirty your kitchen is, and how no other adult is dancing around the football field with a chili cookbook.
  18. Then close your eyes for a second. An autumn breeze brings in the cool smell of new beginnings, wet leaves, autumn. You can hear the hum of cars on 8 mile. Open your eyes to the bright lights, green field, and the end zone. You are the blue ribbon chili maker of the Ferndale Golden Eagle Marching Band Marchapalooza 2012 chili cook off.
  19. Yeah. Go Forth and be Awesome.
  20. Go Golden Eagles!!!!!!!



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3 Responses to Ferndale Golden Eagles Marching Band Marchapalooza Chili Cookoff 2012

  1. Jenny says:


    I love you! And your chili!

    :> Jenny

  2. Jenn says:

    Lol. Thoroughly enjoyed the story. Not too sure about the recipe. If it is half as good as the recipe you fed us at dads then it must have been great!
    Jenn and Caroline

  3. C says:

    A fun read C:

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