Oldest trick in the book!

When you know the odds are stacked against you, question the rules! Well, I am talking about UKCCA rulebook! Its very existence is a slur to inclusiveness!


Here’s where it all started for me. The pickyeaterblog

Wife about husband

The classic response from him when I make a vegetarian chili recipe is: *taste* *pause* “this is pretty good. But it’s not chili.”

This alerted me to the fact that a veggie chili contestant is fundamentally handicapped in this competition. There is a certain non-vegetarianism in a Chili that is inherently antagonistic to a south Indian vegetarian.

Framing my hypothesis, as it is hypothesis time at the law school – Is there inherent bias against a vegetarian Chilli in a Chilli cook-off?

Would it make a difference if the judge is vegetarian?

What composition of judges should be vegetarian? Will there be at least one vegetarian judge?! Should there be more? Hey, $ 25000 is at stake here!

John (of Team John), I sympathise for your vegetarian ‘*** in the cup’ in the February cook-off!   It was not your ‘*** in the cup’ that didn’t stand a chance but there was built-in bias! But hang on, I hear you are not vegetarian, then why did you ‘choose’ to cook a vegetarian Chilli?

Niggles me – whose idea was it – how did this glimmer of inclusion happen? And were you forced up the stairs to those dizzy heights, knowing the fall for you – and vegetarianism will be that much harder?!!

So, what say you folks? I say, I am on the backfoot. And going to be stumped on the day! Unless, unless…

Let’s start again- UKCCA, here it is : –

Here’s why the UKCCA rules are all wrong

It alienates 80 million people

Not up to date with the growing vegetarian movement


And don’t ask me anything if the militant wing then takes over – you were warned.

Take responsibility for your role in the environmental disaster, i.e. the non-vegetarian chili that you very much celebrate!

Take responsibility for trundling on the tradition of the Aztec and Mayan civilisation which you know has mysterious powers! You have been warned!

Take responsibility for passing off ancient and traditional knowledge as Chili, after having appropriated the name, and subsumed it within a grosser identity! You have deprived the opportunity for the nutritious Aztec-Mayan vegetarian chili to remain the default Chili, and privileged the marauder.

But you know, like any good policy maker, I don’t just point out mistakes, I suggest remedies. So here’s what I suggest UKCCA does.

Get a vegetarian judge, and create a level playing field. After the competition is over, convene a committee to discuss how the veggie judge can converse with a non-veggie judge. Then convene another to discuss how the veggie judge will have to rotate between being converted veggie and born-veggie [it’s the difference between a smoky chilli and a non-smoky chili] And if you want me to start, then I am happy to convene a committee to investigate how it was that a reputable law school like UH Law is in cahoots with UKCCA, which is quiet blatantly not inclusive  🙂

Ah, so you don’t want to do all this? Then create a Veg category in tomorrow’s competition – simple solution. All your problems solved, and this blog post will be quietly removed 🙂 for I have no case to argue!

What say you guys? Or should I get an injunction to stop the cook-off tomorrow? He he he

Here is some policy research to strengthen my case

Rules of a progressive chili competition in (yes!) Texas!

“People will move from team to team, tasting and judging the chilis for themselves to determine the People’s Choice award of $200, while a group of judges, many of them Austin and Texas celebrities and personalities, judge the four winners of Best Chili in two divisions. The “All Veg” division will be for chilis made with only vegetables, while the “Traditional” division will be for chilis that contain a meat analog or substitute like seitan or tempeh. Second place in each division gets $150, and first prize in each division gets $250!” – See more at: http://www.redhotvegans.com/tag/lone-star-vegetarian-chili-cook-off/#sthash.XcY3IhEo.dpuf

Not a perfect system, but we can adapt it to suit any passing South Indian who might be pressed ganged into participation 🙂


So will I win tomorrow then? In the All-veg category?

Reasons for an All-veg division

Of course, most chili contains ingredients that any vegan wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole! http://www.redhotvegans.com/tag/lone-star-vegetarian-chili-cook-off/#sthash.XcY3IhEo.dpuf

“Chili is Texas food, something that will attract people of all kinds, where we can show them that vegetarianism isn’t strange… it can be something as comfortable and familiar as a bowl of red.”Shirley Wilkes-Johnson, founder

The Lone Star Veggie Chili Cook-Off is an all-vegan statewide event that has made “keeping chili weird” a decades-long tradition, bringing teams from all over Texas to compete since 1989. – See more at: http://www.redhotvegans.com/tag/lone-star-vegetarian-chili-cook-off/#sthash.XcY3IhEo.dpuf


The real ‘bowl of red’!


It seems the real bowl of red is in fact vegetarian!

‘Chili, a new world recipe, originally meant beans served in a spicy tomato sauce. This nutritionally balanced combination was known to ancient Aztec and Mayan cooks.’

But this has been forgotten (and unfortunately for me) has been given up in favour of the Americanised Mexican version – Chili con carne. So Chili is Chili con carne. And that’s that.

Myth #1 Chili is Mexican – No!

Chili is Tex-Mex!

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“Tex-Mex food might be described as native foreign food, contradictory through that term may seem, It is native, for it does not exist elsewhere; it was born on this soil. But it is foreign in that its inspiration came from an alien cuisine; that it has never merged into the mainstream of American cooking and remains alive almost solely in the region where it originated…”
Eating in America, Waverly Root & Richard de Rochemont [William Morrow:New York] 1976 (p. 281)

It is an amalgam of Northern Mexican peasant food with Texas farm and cowboy fare.

It was something that cowboys could cook or heat up while marauding on their horses.


Historians of heat can find no documented evidence of chili in Texas before 1880. Around that time in San Antonio, a municipal market–El Mercado–was operating in Military Plaza. Historian Charles Ramsdell noted that “the first rickety chili stands” were set up in this marketplace, with bols o’red sold by women who were called “chili queens.”…A bowl o’red cost visitors like O. Henry and William Jennings Bryan a mere dime and was served with bread and a glass of water…The fame of chili con carne began to spread and the dish soon became a major tourist attraction…At the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, a bowl o’red was availabe at the “San Antonio Chili Stand.”

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Myth Number # 2 Chili has beans in it – No, beans were only introduced later!

Apparently there is even a song in Texas:  “if you know beans about chili, you know that chili has no beans”.

But here is the quirk. The Aztec-Mayan Chili was made with beans. Aztec-Mayan chili was forgotten, then came the San Antonian Chili, without beans. Some poor San Antonian couldn’t afford anything else, and reintroduced beans – or went back to the ancient Chili!

Everything about chili con carne generates some sort of controversy- the spelling of the name, the origin of the dish, the proper ingredients for a great recipe…

So at long last, I did what any good litigator will do, we look at who the judges of the UKCCA are and what they have said!

http://www.getreading.co.uk/lifestyle/food-drink/hot-chilli-con-carne-tips-7054537 – UKCCA chili Judge gives tips before a CC-O

Here is the stuff she recommends goes into making a spice mix. A good one (using around 1-2tsp of each depending on taste)  is:

Cumin seeds
Coriander seeds
Cocoa powder
Black pepper
Chilli powder

But others will swear by using garlic, cayenne pepper, jalapeno peppers, cumin and red/green peppers…

So cocoa powder – translated as chocolate is ok! Who hooo!

Fun facts about chillies

  • Chilies are high in Vitamins A and C. They are reported to help lower blood pressure.
  • It isn’t the seeds that are spicy. The heat comes from the veins that hold the seeds.
  • The smaller and thinner the pepper, the hotter it will be.
  • Chillies aren’t related to black pepper. They are related to tomatoes and eggplants — the nightshade family.

If you want to read in-depth about Chili, go to my sources







Chili sin carne

Aha! So Chili is short for Chili con carne, which is ‘Chili with meat’ in Spanish. I already don’t like the ‘thinking’ behind it! to refer to something vegetarian against the backdrop of non-vegetarian. Lucky English is the global language and not Spanish 🙂   Glad to stick with Chili!

Oh, I like this recipe. This is the first recipe I found with rice alongside it.


And something else caught my attention on this website – check it out. It says ‘Eat with your eyes’.

eat with your eyesImages of food in high-definition, up-close and sharp are almost the real thing. Eat with your eyes! Indeed! Great! until something comes up…….and oops… That’s why it’s uncomfortable for us, generational vegetarians, when faced with unpalatable ‘Eat with your eyes’ adverts.

It’s more rampant than you might think. Allow me to elaborate. Adverts on TV for food stores, and not just food stores, graphic food images could be used to advertise almost anything. Images in e-newsletters which I didn’t ask for to be sent, brightly lit ‘mouth-watering’ images on the walls of 24-hour stores or the locals, blown up a thousand times, the advert in the bus stop.

Oh, for goodness sake, I can’t escape it even when I book a train ticket! For quite a while, east midlands railway online booking site had plonked its ‘where are you travelling from’ tab right on top of a slab of …… I don’t know what, it wasn’t vegetarian. And I always book my advance tickets online.  I fear what might happen when 4-d, smell and sight adverts become more prevalent.

Spare a thought for us long suffering veggie South Indians please. Just saying!

Ok, more recipes. I want to try something that has a more authentic feel to it. With a bit of trepidation, but I feel compelled. So here’s one – chipotle chili and adobo sauce is part of it. Sounds authentic! I have bought most of the stuff, but still trying to find chipotle chili in adobo sauce. Then I am set.



As I try to come to grips with Chili culture, I find it funny there is a competition to cook one dish with chilli and spice, and even in that there is not much cooking involved! It’s that old fascination with spices lingering on, isn’t it? South Indians take chili and spices for granted!  but still not so for many people around the world. Spices and chilli are still noteworthy!

I suppose what competition could we have in South India around one dish? Dosa, perhaps? It could be judged on colour, sourness, thickness, side dishes and so on. Wonder if there is a dosa competition in India. There are dosa eating competitions, alright, but dosa making competitions? Never heard of any. Have you?

Chili sin Chocolate


We are getting a feel for a veggie chili now. We decided to try a recipe without chocolate. This time it was going to be 6 long green chillies that went into that pot! Jamie Oliver recommended 2 (it’s a Jamie Oliver recipe), one red and one green chili, but that would simply do for us! Abd we were right, of course. It would be been unpalatable with just the 2 chilies.

Again lots of chopping involved, but not quite as much as the previous recipe! Although the sweet potato is a toughie. Keep a sharp knife at hand! This recipe has a nice mix of grill and boil. The sweet potatoes were nicely roasted with a spice coating. Then they finally went into the Chili, at the very end.

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Guacamole, sour cream and chili to go with some plain wrap. Very nice! Sans the big bunch of coriander that was recommended, we put in a small one though, the aroma was fabulous!

I already have one thing that I think should go into my chili – i.e. chocolate. I also know the other thing I want to use in my chili – coriander! Something tells me it is not very ‘authentic’ to do that, but something also tells me that the authenticity is already lost with the beans in, and these days coriander features in a lot of recipes! So, now I want to try out a veggie chili recipe that has both chocolate and coriander! If you know of a delicious recipe combining these both, then do pass it on.

Few questions about the judging criteria and facilities – Can we use beans from a can in the cook-off? Or does that have to prepared from scratch?  If it is going to be outdoors on the grass, do I have access to a sink where I wash my hands after I have cut those fiery chillies?!!

Chili Feedback from tasters – great, but corainder makes it asian!!

We liked it too!

Indian table manners – one in particular

Many of us drink like this – heads up, glug down, no contact with bottle!

Don’t ever ask me to try your scoop of ice-cream after you’ve had a couple of spoons, because I will not. I will politely turn you down, not because I don’t want to try your scoop, but because of ‘engili’. A word of warning, this blog is not going to make you salivate, it’s a bit gross.

I really can’t explain engili, so will leave you to Wikipedia’s clumsy title that summarises the concept (?)(practice?) – can’t blame the author much, since I am not even attempting to explain it.

‘Contamination with saliva

The concept of ‘uchchishtam’ (in Sanskrit), ‘entho’ (in Bengal), ‘aitha’ (in Orissa), ‘jutha’ (in North India), ‘ushta’ (in Western India), ‘echal’ (in Tamil Nadu), ‘echil’ (in Kerala), ‘enjalu’ (in Karnataka), or ‘engili’ (in Andhra Pradesh) is a common belief in India. It can refer to the food item or the utensils or serving dishes, that has come in contact with someone’s mouth, or saliva or the plate while eating – something that directly or indirectly came in contact with your saliva. It can also refer to leftover food. It is considered rude and unhygienic to offer someone food contaminated with saliva. It is, however, not uncommon in India for spouses, or extremely close friends or family, to offer each other such contaminated food and is not considered disrespectful under such circumstances. In certain cases, as in the first lunch by the newly-weds, sharing food from each other’s plates may be thought of as an indication of intimacy.’

I am hoping, if there is any other vegetarian team in the cook-off, that they too don’t engili-chesify [contaminate with saliva] Aaahhh, it’s that feeling… It’s creeping up on me….. That feeling I get when I have to open self-stick envelopes, or open out exam papers whose ends have been stuck down with saliva, or a plastic bag which has been separated open using a flick of the thumb to the tongue.


So what are you thinking? Intolerant culture? Super privacy conscious? OCD? – no, none of that. Talk to us and we will tell you. Better still visit India, and observe.

Here’s another interesting website – http://nootherwordstosay.tumblr.com/post/10790470859/engili-telugu

‘Lost in translation

A word is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy. A page filled with idioms, words, and other sayings that have no English translation of the word.’

When is a Chili a Chili?

Black bean Chili with chocolate and coconut. Really? Coconut? Caribbean Chili maybe?

Ok, so let me get this right. Chillies, spices and vegetables make a Chilli. But, chillies, spices and vegetables also make a Curry! Hmmm…. What is the difference, in principle? To a seasoned south Indian tongue, the Mexican taste is likable, which is partly where Chilli comes from…I suppose. So a chilli is not very far from a curry?

What it is is that a dish ‘made of any kind of combination of vegetables, cooked with chilli, spices and other ingredients’ can turn out to be something I can readily associate with but one that the judges at the cook-off might not count/feel is a Chili, even if it satisfies the rules per se!

Oh no, this is a crisis! When is a Chili a Chili?

So let’s take away all the labels for a moment, no chili or curry. Perhaps I can identify some broad distinguishing features for a Chili.


When I brought up the subject of blender for making a Chili, the comment was, whatever do you need a blender for?

Tut – tut.. Wrong thing to say to a south Indian! What can a south Indian cook think of without a mixie and a grinder?


My ever reliable Preethi Blue Leaf spice grinder!


The blades are what make these tiny grinders so useful!

Here’s what Dan from Team Dan had to say –

If you need a blender get the students to do it the old way – mortar and pestle! Get them to sport t-shirts, one with mortar and another with pestle!

Enough said then about mortar, pestle and mixie! Might actually use Dan’s idea as a sign of protest against stifling my creativity in this Chili contest 🙂

So the first distinguishing feature that makes a Chili stand out from, say, sambhar – No grinding of spices! Certainly haven’t seen mention of grinding in any of the Chili recipes so far. Talking of appliances, here’s one that Chilli cooks seem to use – a slow cooker, came across it in this recipe.

What about creaminess? Haven’t seen this either, in recipes. I was thinking of a South Indian favourite – majigha pulusu (more kolambhu), this will have veggies, lentils, I can add beans, and sure thing – spices. But it’s mainstay – soured yogurt makes it creamy, and certainly doesn’t pass the colour test.

Right, time to try out some ‘real’ Chilli! Time to go in search of the soul of Chili…

Surely if there are restaurants making anything close to ‘authentic’ chilli, they should be in London. I’ll ferret them out!

The first search throws up nothing but Indian restaurants! Then looking for tex-mex restaurants – coming up with Mexican restaurants, but apparently (I have now discovered) Mexicans disown chilli saying it as a “despicable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the US from Texas to New York” – a 1959 Mexican dictionary!

Ok, look for American restaurants. Oh no, am I going to survive this? Dark clouds gathering…

Set in an imposing stone building just off Trafalgar Square, the Embassy is for those who like their American nosh with a dash of Southern flair. It serves hearty Tex-Mex tucker and is decorated like a Texan saloon bar.

Can’t do that one, further search….found it!

Vegetarian bean chili at Chimichanga on Haverstock Hill in northwest London. Surprise, surprise – it tasted a bit like sambhar, had rice in it, and was covered in cheese!

A Mexican dish with a Sambhar soul 😉

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