Soup’s On For Fundraiser

Henry Hodges, grandson of councilwomen Robin Busch and Patricia Hodges, can’t vote but enjoyed eating chili and soup to his heart’s content. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

LAKEHURST – The ninth annual Soup-R-Bowl of Chili Challenge brought out the usual contenders to keep or defeat titles, one ladle-full at a time.

“Everybody brings their best game, and it’s really competitive,” Kathy Abrahamson said. “And the taste really shows it.”

The challenge, hosted by the Lakehurst Historical Society, saw AristaCare at Manchester and Fleet Reserve Association 124 take all three challenge categories against the Lakehurst Police, First Aid Squad, Volunteer Fire Department, PTA and Historical Society.

Fleet Reserve’s chili won “Chili People’s Choice.” The recipe, created by the reserve’s William Bryan, was tweaked from last year’s combination. The secret? Bryan said he roasted the peppers and pureed them, making a smoother consistency from last year’s chunky “country chili.”

AristaCare swept the remaining two awards, the overall Judge’s choice for best in show and “Soup People’s Choice” with their potato soup.

Lakehurst Historical Society members Bern Werthwein, left, and Barb Cummings sell tickets at the ninth annual Soup-R-Bowl of Chili Challenge on January 28. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

Bonnie McAuliffe said AristaCare’s residents cooking club goes through several versions of the recipe, adding and subtracting and changing, with the residents getting to sample and decide on the best. Two to three batches are tasted and tested before the final version ends up at the challenge.

AristaCare presents a different soup each year, and for four years in a row has won the people’s choice? McAuliffe said their secret is simply taking the time to perfect the recipe.

Other challengers like to use the same recipe each year. Abrahamson said she brings in her favorite taco chili soup each year because people look forward to it.

Another award-winning chili in past year’s belonged to Vernon Spoon of the Lakehurst Volunteer Fire Company. What makes his chili stand apart, he said, is cooking to meat and vegetables separately, which gives his recipe more complex flavors. While he prefers more heat in his chili, he lessens that intensity to make a crowd-pleasing dish.

Sgt. Iain James and his 9-year-old daughter Makenzie served some chili with a kick. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

The crowd at Lakehurst’s community center, where the event was held, was treated to music and prizes as well.

“It’s family friendly, so you can bring your kids here. There are soups that are hot and not hot. So everybody gets a chance to participate,” Abrahamson said. “Plus, it’s all local organizations. Everybody kind of knows everybody, so it’ a nice time.”

The society’s Abrahamson organizes the event each year. While she didn’t have an exact tally, she said this year’s event was well attended. The proceeds help fund that society, which is housed at the old Saint John’s Church on Church Street. It was the oldest Roman Catholic church in Ocean County.

The challenge is just one way the Lakehurst Historical Society raises funds. They will have their car show on July 4, and hope to have it at the school, but Abrahamson said that won’t be an annual event.