Thursday, Feb. 23, is National Chili Day. It’s a little early for the days we regularly celebrate, given the Mobile American Cancer Society’s chili cook-off is Saturday, March 11, and the South Alabama College of Medicine’s Gumbo Chili Showdown is Saturday, April 8. Chili, however, is special any day on my calendar.

With Mardi Gras in full swing, the best we can do is incorporate chili into our festivities. Dreamland BBQ is selling bags of its secret-recipe chili seasoning so you can bring the magic home with you. Get a little practice in before you sign your team up for one of the upcoming contests.

Chili originated in Texas, where the poorer classes came up with a way to stretch their rations of meat when the going got tough. Recipes developed and spread throughout the South until you could find “a bowl of red” just about anywhere. Funny how we now celebrate one of the cheapest meals at some of the highest-attended contests.

I’ll start a pot Thursday and roll it on into the Joe Cain weekend. It’s always better the next day anyway.

GSA’s Operation Cookie Care Package
I’ve got a hookup for Girl Scout cookies if you need any last-minute boxes. My little friend Dakota is keeping me knee deep in Thin Mints (which I, of course, freeze like any sane person would) and Samoas. (The latter are double the calories of the former, but there are fewer in the box. No harm, no foul.)

This year the Girl Scouts of America are extending the season, but only for some special cookie lovers. Operation Cookie Care Package is a program through which customers can make donations that will be used to send cookies to the brave men and women in veterans’ hospitals so they can enjoy a little taste of home.

Donate to your local troop and at the end of the season the donations will be used to place a special order with the bakery. From one group of troops to another, in April the cookies will be delivered to the designated military organizations such as the USO and local branches.

“Operation Cookie Care Package provides a wonderful way for individuals in our community to both support our Girl Scouts and our brave members of the military,” says Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama CEO Karlyn Edmonds. “We are delighted to share with the girls we serve yet another opportunity to make a difference in the world around them.”

Act fast and find your troop. Email or call 1-800-239-6636.