In this country, our home chefs compete in chili cookoffs, but in Scotland, they compete over a subtler ingredient: oats.

The 14th annual Golden Spurtle competition wrapped up last week, with contests in two areas: plain porridge (consisting of just oats, water, and salt), and specialty (other ingredients allowed). UK Guardian writer Simon Humphreys took up the challenge and entered the traditional portion of the contest using his secret weapon: a bain-marie. He ended up taking third place.

The piece is a rollicking read, investigating the art of making a fine bowl of porridge:

[N]o two porridges are alike. Each porridge is a unique interpretation of the basic ingredients of oatmeal, salt and water … Soaking your porridge overnight is an absolute must to ensure the perfect consistency; and vigorous stirring, with a spurtle, if you own one, is essential to obliterate any offending lumpiness.

By the way, the winning specialty porridge contains melted chocolate! Everything’s better with melted chocolate, even oatmeal.

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