I would have loved to have been there!
VEGAN CHILI CONTEST
Hold meat, add Shiner and stir
Austin celebrates 19th annual vegan chili cook-off.
By Melissa Mixon
Monday, November 05, 2007
The Lone Star State may be known for cowboy boots and beef. But here in Austin, even a chili cook-off has its own hippie, alternative taste.
It's the taste of texturized vegetable protein.
On Sunday, 700 to 1,000 people from around the state headed to the Lone Star Vegetarian Network's 19th annual chili cook-off to soak their taste buds in spicy, meat-free goodness. The network, a nonprofit group that advocates vegetarianism, hosted the event at the Austin Zoo.
Fifteen teams competed in the cook-off, churning up more than 75 gallons of vegan chili. The cook-off may have toyed with a Texas staple food, but organizers said that's the point.
"We do a chili cook-off because we live in Texas," said Ricky Burke, co-director of the network.
The cook-off got its start in 1989 as an idea to promote the network's cause. One of four friends read that chili cook-offs were the biggest fundraisers in the country, and the group decided to home in on the Texas tradition and tweak it a bit.
Nineteen years later, organizers and competitors say the message is still the same.
"We want them to see that vegetarianism can be fun, and it can taste good," said Liz Bruns, treasurer of the network. "We want to get away from the party pooper reputation that vegetarians have."
If that is the reputation, 71-year-old Don Barnes is working hard to change it.
Barnes has competed in the cook-off for about 15 years, and his chili — spiked with three to four bottles of Shiner Bock beer — has won him more trophies than he can count.
This year, Barnes won first place in the People's Choice Award, but there weren't enough chili bowl trophies to go around.
"I told them it's all right, I don't need any more," he said.
It's at the cook-offs that Barnes met his wife, Alice Strong. Strong had competed against him for years, and her chili always came in second to his.
Five years ago, they married.
"Now, I don't have to come in second anymore," Strong said.
The first cook-off was held in Austin, but the competition eventually traveled statewide to Houston, El Paso and San Antonio. Organizers said they moved it back to Austin because the city is more central. And, some say, the state capital is more welcoming to vegan chili.
"It may be Texas, but this is Austin, and anything goes," said David Lundstedt, a competitor in the cook-off and a lieutenant with the Austin Fire Department.
Lundstedt became a vegetarian in 1995 for health and philosophical reasons. He said a whiff of barbecue still takes him back to his "carnivore days," but he has stayed true to vegetarianism.
"I always say real chili doesn't have to have meat, and it's still good," he said.
Posted by Gorgeous at 11/12/07 20:30:42Is anyone ready to start Veg*n Group with me in Hong Kong & Macau? - I will move to Macau in January.
This area has maybe 100 Buddhist Veggy eating places but almost "0" community activity.