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Chili Day takes chill off cold weather

Mary Hinds maryhinds@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 9:59 PM

People crept into the Wilson County Courthouse on Friday afternoon casting intriguing glances around as their noses quivered trying to acquire a scent.

One by one, they made their way to Mayor Randall Hutto's office to take part in a secret meeting. Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead and Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings were among the stealthy participants in one of the most anticipated events of the year - Snow Day Chili Day.

Carol Knight is not just one of the go-to women at Hutto's office, she is also a world-class chili chef. Wilson County residents in the know crowded into the office to get a taste of her award-winning chili. She and her husband, Richard - who is also executive director of the Chili Appreciation Society International, are from Texas, and they know their chili.

"Richard and I have been doing this for 37 years. We're originally from Dallas," she said, acknowledging the connection between her new state and her home state via Davy Crockett and Sam Houston. Her chili recipe is called "Tennessee Chili."

Their Tennessee Chili is gaining world recognition. The spicy duo has competed in chili competitions all over the United States, and in international cookoffs in Mexico, Canada, the Virgin Islands, Germany and even in China.

Carol Wright said there is no just showing up with a jar of chili at these hotly contested cookoffs.

"All the chili has to be cooked on-site in the open air," she said, adding her secret ingredient is "skill."

Carol has cooked this Texas treat for years and brought it along when she came to Wilson County.

"We moved here in 1994, and I started work for the county school system," she said. "When we had the first snow day, everybody in the Central Office was whining because we were the only ones who had to come in that day. I said 'I've got a deal for you.' The next day I brought in my chili, and it started from there. I would make chili every day school was closed for snow."

When she moved to the mayor's office, she continued the tradition there, where it remains one of the bright spots of winter for those in the know.

Carol Wright said she and her husband recently won chili competitions in Indiana.

"I came in first on New Year's Eve and second on New Year's Day," she said.

The mayors were nosing around trying to get a bit more than their fair share of the spicy delight while county office workers just looked happy to be on the list of chili recipients.

Afterwards, everyone headed back to work after a better-than-average lunch hour. Those who overindulged will surely be cursing their decision to live for the moment and have multiple bowls.

"Chili is the natural food of Texas," Carol said.

Anyone who would like to try their hand at Carol Wright's chili recipe, or any others, can get them at CASIchiliED@gmail.com.

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