Article and photos by Susan A Mahalick
August 7, 2015 (Baja California, Mexico)--Another beautiful summer day for this now locally famous annual event dawned just like most this time of year, with a light marine layer and cool temperatures. The event would not start until 11 a.m., when people have to start cooking their entries on site to be ready for judging and tasting at 2:30 p.m. Booths were mostly set up the night before, with one couple who always has the best spot in the first place where most people start their tasting. Frank and Darlene, who live here, have entered since the first cook-off seven years ago. Two hundred and eighty to three hundred and twenty people were estimated to have attended the event.
A booth costs $25 and can be shared in certain circumstances such as my friend, DJ, who makes an amazing guacamole for which she is locally known, with lots of cream cheese, tomatoes, avocados and onion. Simple ingredients combine for a crowd-pleasing appetizer and she shared a booth with a chili maker. She had a big jar for donations for the first time this year, since this is after all a fundraiser for local charities and she supports many of them. She chose the La Misión Children’s fund for the proceeds, but she also helps orphanages, started a food bank that does weekly handouts and celebrates Three Kings day in January by going around with gifts for the children, toiletries and food such as oranges and apples for a lot of the truly poor people in our area.
There was a raffle that lasted for about two hours with a long table covered with items such as baskets of goodies, a trailer bird feeder,and golf clubs for which people bought tickets for in generous amounts. Another friend of mine, Geneice, made a large basket with vodka, Jack Daniels, books, a wine chilling device and many other items that caught the attention of many. It was in the cantina for about 10 days previous and looked to bring in a good amount all by itself. Some of the people down here are very generous with both time and money.
Vendors came around with their wares: jewelry, hand crafted metal birds, hats, hammocks. There was a booth off to the side for some other vendors, one of whom was the popular Maria. Maria goes into establishments balancing a large basket on her head with colorful jewelry, Mexican blankets, shawls and purses.
Beer was the most popular drink on this warm August day with a large cooler of iced down brews right outside served up by Angel who works in the cantina.
The two bartenders, Gustavo and Paco were working as fast as they could inside serving both food and drink to those who wanted to be under cover. I felt sorry for them as they were not partaking of the fine food outside and trying their best to keep up with demand. I am sure they were very tired that evening and the next day. The cantina stays open until 1 or 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night and these men work the entire shift, starting at 10 am.
Susan A Mahalick has written for the Baja Times, ezine.com and the Secretary of Tourism. She has a book on Amazon called My Gold Coast—Baja, A Practical Guide, 3rd edition. The paperback version will be out shortly and the Kindle version is published.