A Review of Professor Ogletree’s Chili Cookoff


After finishing a movie showing, Professor Hay, in a rare suit-less mood, arrives in Ropes Gray to discuss chili-judging techniques with Professor Ogletree, while Professor Shugerman looks on.
Professor Ogletree [standing, fourth from left] and all of the cookoff winners.

Your correspondent felt half Toqueville and half Myrdal as he attended the uniquely American phenomenon of a “chili cookoff,” held in Ropes Gray on February 22. The event, organized by Professor Ogletree for the section, solicited student chili entries for the chance to win various monetary prizes. Last year’s winning entry used ‘chocolate’ as the secret ingredient. Your correspondent declined to participate as an entrant when the proposed use of the ancient family ingredients of vegemite and poutine were swiftly vetoed. A chili cookoff is apparently not just about chili powder in bean soup. In addition to nine pots of student-made chili, the Professor graciously provided, through subsidized funds and Harvard catering, fried chicken drumsticks, BBQ chicken wings, sweet potato salad, sweet potato pie, jalapeño corn bread, green salad, soda, beer, wine, and more beer. The salad was served in that unique American style known as ‘unmixed.’ Strangely enough, the event did not serve chitterlings (chitlins) or hog maws. A major disaster was averted when the availability of so-called ‘fixins’ was confirmed

To prevent bribery and bias, the panel of chili judges consists of Elizabeth Warren, Bruce Hay, and other impartial parties, including a 3L that few recognized and whom everyone suspects just randomly stumbled upon the event for some reason. Your correspondent hopes to be a chili judge next year. There were few instances of judging impropriety, though some individuals tried to cloud the judgments of Professors Hay and Ogletree by getting them to do ‘kegstands.’

It is surprising to find the students at America’s second best law school somewhat competitive outside the classroom. Nasty rumors were quickly circulated that some chili-cooking contestants were seen procuring their final product from Wendy’s, or, even worse, had their moms cook for them. There were even more unsubstantiated rumors that Professor Singer, who did not show up to judge because his wife conveniently won some sort of award and thus had to dine out, was taken out of commission through the masterful collusion of the non-kosher chefs.

The chili entries:

Spicy Devil (Vegetarian) – first place (tied) Had the chili cookoff been a Pop Idol popularity contest, this entry and its photogenic chefs probably would have been victorious, despite the chefs’ confusion on the distinction between jalapeños and habañeros, and the need to have the pepper seeds removed. Unfortunately, the victory was tarnished by allegations that perhaps the reason the only vegetarian entry won was because at least one judge was strictly vegetarian.

Mysterious Delight – first place (tied) This concoction was the focus of much attention because of its top-secret special ingredient, which anticlimactically turned out to be ‘lime.’

White Bean Chicken Chili – second place This family-recipe chili’s appearance is in marked contrast to the other entries, as it was described as strangely white and sickly looking. One commentator called it “better than expected.” Although nobody explicitly endorsed this entry or said they liked it, it somehow managed to do very well, showing that it is the Shakespeare in Love of the chilis and once again proving the truth of the old adage of “once you go white, you don’t take flight.”

It’s Chili in Here – third place This entry had the most memorable prize acceptance speech by a humble and semi-drunken creator: “I didn’t actually do anything. I drank beer while [my co-chef] made it, but I tasted [the chili] several times.”

Much more could be written about the other chili entries — Varsity, Sweet Southwestern Chili, Meaty, Down Home Honest to Goodness Wham Bam Two Chili Pepper (DHHGWBWCP), and Entry #1 -Anonymous. Meaty was a tasty concoction of meat chunks and MSG. DHHCGWBWCP would have won had its creator not used too much oregano and other spices by accident, and he was glad nobody died. Varsity conveniently had an ingredient list in case someone had an allergy to any of the twenty ingredients. Sadly, your correspondent cannot comment on every chili in detail due to the draconian word limit.

After the judging and sampling, the section gave presents to the two present professors from the previous term. Bruce Hay [receiving his gift]: Hey, mine’s thinner. Elizabeth Warren [softly]: It always has been, Bruce. Hay received theatre tickets while Warren received a book.

Overall, since your correspondent dislikes confrontation or decision-making, it is this article’s conclusion that every participant is a winner.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to read next week’s survey on the curious American habit of eating hot dogs* on sticks.

*A variant of haggis consisting of mechanically separated meat products pulverized and stuffed in a chicken intestine.

Libin Zhang decided to write about the Chili Cookoff instead of the Vagina Monologues, because he felt uncomfortable writing about The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could.

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