How one goes about digging a spoon into a thick, spicy, saucy bowl of chili isn't described in any etiquette books, and thank goodness for that.
A doyen of the social graces might recommend moving the spoon away from you when faced with a bowl of vichyssoise, and a bite of tomato soup is best delivered via a bite of grilled cheese, as everyone knows (etiquette expert or not).
But chili? It's flat-out dig-in-able, however you like to eat it, and if you like what's in it, so much the better. That can sometimes be a challenge for those vegan diners who'd prefer that their stews be plant-based but still come with all of the usual chili trimmings.
What to do, where to go and what to see
The 4th Annual Vegan Chili Cook Off address the quandary each and every year, with a rollicking and flavorful Sunday afternoon showdown at Tony's Darts Away in Burbank.
Vegan honcho Tal Ronnen, a chef specializing in vegan cookery, will head up the Feb. 28 event, which opens at noon and wraps at 4 o'clock (with an awards ceremony). A number of chefs will join in, including Chef Rosanna Caira of Rabbit Hole Cafe, Chef Roy Elam of Plant Food and Wine in Venice, and Chef Mollie Engelheart from Vegan Organic Sage Bistro.
A number of writers and bloggers specializing in vegan-themed reviews, recipes, and articles will also be in the house, tasting and hobnobbing.
As for you swinging by for a few deep 'n delicious swigs of chili goodness? It's totes possible. Pay ten bucks and get a crack at a quintet of 3-ounce chili tastes. They could brim with sweet potatoes or beans or peppers or all of the above.
That's the beauty of vegan chili; the bountiful additions, and all of their interesting combinations, seem to be, at initial glance, endless.
Five tastes by five excellent chefs, though, could very well scratch that vegan chili itch you may have been experiencing all winter long.
The beneficiary of the afternoon? Farm Sanctuary will receive part of the day's proceeds.