Danny and Shirley Trobough started the original chili project in 2002, making 10 gallons of chili in their home. Their small group contributed ingredients, helped with the cooking and sold the chili at the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale (supporting the Mennonite Central Committee’s work in disaster and famine relief). In 2003, the Troboughs asked David Alleman if the Weavers Food Pantry Garden could donate some peppers and tomatoes. About year later, the Relief Sale folk required that all food must be cooked in certified kitchens. The project was transferred to Weavers’ Shady Oak kitchen. So, the twenty gallons of chili were cooked at Shady Oak and transported to the sale where hungry folk made quick work of the peppers, tomatoes, meat and beans combined according to Danny’s recipe. While the Troboughs served in Jamaica in Voluntary Service, they entrusted the project to Joe Earlys and David Allemans.
In 2003 and several years following, chili tomatoes and peppers mostly came from the parsonage garden. Jan Kauffman harvested many of the tomatoes and peppers and the Allemans froze them in preparation for the early Saturday morning cooking. The hot sauce Shirley made to accompany that chili included seven kinds of hot peppers. Preparation of the chili continued to be coordinated by David Alleman and his small group and the sale by Joe and Janel Early’s small group over the next several years.
Sources of ingredients have shifted. The last several years Seasons Bounty (produce) Farm has been giving us onions in exchange pulling onions for them. In 2017 the 6th grade Vacation Bible School class, plus friends helped pulled about 25 plus bags (bushels?) of onions and we took about one bushel. For several years many peppers and tomatoes came from seconds solicited from several produce stands around the area or at the Harrisonburg Farmers’ Market. Sometimes we got thirds from sellers at the Shen Valley Produce Auction. For the past several years, all of the peppers & tomatoes have come from Weavers Church members or their friends. More than a bushel of tomatoes in 2017 came from our fellow volunteers at Gift & Thrift. Beans for the chili came from the Clayton Maust farm in Michigan 2013-2015. One year he brought 50 pound bags of black, pinto and red beans and told us to take the rest to local food banks (we needed only about 20 pounds). For 2017 volunteers purchased and contributed canned beans.
One of the most important recent developments is the help of the young adults: Wengers, Kings and Wheelers and several others they have brought with them. Next to that has been the increase in the amount of chili made to 40 gallons. We have made twice as much chili in nearly the same amount of time. Several members of the SAMS small group found ways to make our work more efficient. The younger workers made the chili go better. We no longer raise our own garlic. One year, a volunteer used a garlic crusher to crush all 120 cloves needed for the chili. This required pulling the skins out of the crusher. That evening she developed a rash which lasted several days. Now she donates minced garlic in a jar. Organizing ingredients Friday afternoon has also been important. One year, during transport of the chili to the Fairgrounds, a bucket of chili tipped over. Never did hear whose vehicle had the chili flavored floor mats. That unfortunate occurrence led to another improvement. I am sure the Jeep owner was glad Roger and Linda Nelson found us some buckets with lids.
Getting it right
Over the years there has been push and pull between those who like thick, full flavored chili and those who like bean soup. There’s also the tug between those like to feel pepper burn and those who like to “taste all the ingredients”. Our Anaheim peppers were plentiful in 2017 and a bit warmer than normal. To test the wisdom of using up to half Anaheims (for the peppers) in the chili, the Allemans made a gallon batch. Then they invited five men home from church for a Sunday dinner of chili. Turned out just right. Cornbread helped and no one asked for the hot sauce. For the past several years Jewel Yoder has been making a scotch bonnet pepper-based hot sauce. The hot sauce has been essential for the heat lovers to add to their chili. She has made enough for Janel and Joe to sell at the end of the chili sales. Chili making has been a community effort. In 2017 more than 20 people contributed ingredients needed to make the chili. There were 12-16 people involved in making the chili and 6 to 8 involved in selling.
Getting started again?
Chili making to raise funds for famine and disaster relief through the Mennonite Central Committee may have ended in 2017 after 15 years. Will another group pick up this pain-in-my-back, joyful, good-fellowship, profitable for others, service project?