Paper Monitor: Red beans and rice make everything not nice

casserole dish full of stew

Yesterday's papers were awash with tearful bakers.

Today the Daily Mail reheats a bizarre story about chilli con carne.

It's a "chilli con carne feud" between Esther Rantzen and Delia Smith that goes right back to the 1970s when Esther was presenting That's Life! and Delia was the nation's biggest TV star.

Back then a viewer wrote in to say he'd got "terribly ill" after cooking Delia's recipe. The kidney beans weren't properly cooked, he complained. He blamed Delia. The programme read out the reader's letter.

But Delia hit back saying he hadn't followed her recipe. That's Life! were "leant on" by managers to apologise to Delia, Rantzen now says.

The TV cook was bigger than Clarkson in those days, she explains. And Delia had threatened to withdraw publication rights for her cookery book from the BBC, Rantzen claims. Cue weird apology indirectly blaming the viewer. "It was the most obscure apology you have ever heard. I am not sure we did not put it out to music," Rantzen says.

Delia is still furious, both with the viewer and Rantzen. Contacted by the Mail, she tells them her recipe involved boiling the beans over a direct heat then transferring them to a pre-heated oven. They would have been on the boil for two hours, she says.

"The one person who had complained to That's Life! had not actually followed my recipe. The chilli had been made in a porcelain dish (ie not flameproof) and therefore placed in the oven cold." There was "never any question" of her withdrawing publication rights, she adds.

The Mail - not enjoying the row at all - prints Delia's original recipe with the strapline "a spicy dish with a dash of controversy".

The dish contains 8oz of dried red kidney beans, it is worth noting.

Paper Monitor, who dined on chilli con carne last night with no ill effects, would like to point out that in the year 2013 tins of pre-cooked kidney beans are available from all good grocery stores. It might prevent you from having to apologise to someone, somewhere. And save about two hours.

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