One bite can say a lot can about the quality of a meal. Some dishes may need salt, others may need just a touch of heat.
But with George Trujillo's green chili, there is the "body and depth" of food that approaches perfection.
"You can eat George's chili, and you can't find anything it needs," said Ray Zimpher after sampling Trujillo's chili at the 15th annual Soroco Homecoming Chili Cook-off last Thursday. Zimpher has come to almost every cook-off since the first one 15 years ago.
"It's a full experience of eating," he said about the chili.
George and Darla Trujillo were one of a couple dozen chili cooks who brought their specialties to the Homecoming Chili Cook-off. Almost 500 people, including 135 students, came to sample, and each paid a $3 entrance fee that provided a bottomless bowl of chili, drinks and dessert, and supported the Soroco booster club.
The Trujillos' chili officially was called "It's Chili fit for the King," and Darla dressed in a head-to-toe Elvis outfit. She wouldn't share any secrets to making the champion chili, except to say that the fresh ingredients are key, as is "the way you stir."
One good way to eat well at a chili cook-off is to find out which chilies have the most repeat customers.
Standing at Arlene Porteus' booth during the 15th annual event, it looked as if the 2003 champ might keep her spot.
Carol Childs of Denver liked Porteus' chili best, and she should know because she makes a mean green and an awfully good red chili herself, she said.
"It has a more complicated flavor combination," Childs said. "It has the right amount of spice. It's not too (spicy) but it's got a good bite to it."
Sophomore Savannah Gebers favored it because it was chock-full of meat.
And for Chelsea Bonfiglio, a sophomore at Soroco High School who has come to the chili cook-off for as long as she can remember, Porteus' chili, "has always been good -- it's good every year.
"You've just got to look for the hat," she added, referring to the crazy hats -- and costumes -- that Porteus always sports.
Bonfiglio's friend Natashia Cole said that Porteus' chili is always the first one she tries.
But both girls agreed that the Sophomore Chili, made by the moms of sophomore girls, also was excellent, especially because it showed a lot of class spirit.
Carmen Strait, one mother involved, said her secret is to "never measure." Having four children to serve as tasters also helped, she said. Lori Lombardi, another mom, said extras such as cheese, sour cream, crackers and tortillas also were a bonus.
There was a Dog Breath Brew, named by the cook's son, and one brought by Susan Rossi made with the family's homegrown beef.
Seventh-grader Matt Watwood manned the Taxidermy Surprise chili for his mom, Phyllis, who was the official cook. The chili was almost all elk meat and tomatoes.
The Watwood family has brought the chili to the cook-off before, once under the name of "Hawaiian Chili." That year, people swore they tasted a pineapple flavor, even though none had been used, Matt said.
As one of the non-chilies, Nora Phillips made her cheesy potato soup, a dish she always brings "because there are a lot of people that don't like chili," she said.
And, if someone gets an extra hot sample, they can get a taste of soup to quell their taste buds before returning to the fire.
Everyone who went to the Thursday night event was quick to point out that the chili cook-off meant a lot more than eating good food. It was a chance to catch up with friends, and to support the Soroco booster club.
Oak Creek Town Board Trustee John Crawford said he liked all of the chilies because each one had a different taste. In the past, he has tried to sample every chili, but he has never reached that goal.
Trustee Bill Paxton, however, has, and made tasting everything his goal again Thursday.
He started at one side and walked down the lines of tables, sampling every chili at least once. He tried Porteus' chili a few times, and Trujillo's chili at least five times.
Paxton would have brought his own red chili, which is made from elk meat, beans, green chilies, diced tomatoes and tomato juice, but had to attend the Town Board meeting.