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Matthew Cox becomes first American to win Golden Spurtle oatmeal contest

October 13, 2009 |  8:00 am

Matthewcoxwinsgoldenspurtle This Sunday, Matthew Cox made history by becoming the first American to win the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship. Held in Carrbridge, Scotland the 16th annual competition, held on World Porridge Day, brought together contenders from around the world in a grueling oatmeal cook-off. Cox made it to the finals, where he beat last year's winner, local cook Ian Bishop, to become the world porridge champ and take home the coveted Golden Spurtle.

"It was a total shock to discover that we won," Cox says. "We spent most of our time focused on the Specialty category. We didn't at all expect to walk away with the primary prize. Despite our experience, we didn't think we could beat the Scots, who have a thousand-year head start on us when it comes to cooking porridge."

Led by Cox, the team from Bob's Red Mill of Oregon entered a porridge in both the Traditional and Specialty categories. The specialty oatmeal, steel-cut oats studded with Oregon pears, cherries, hazelnuts and distilled spirits and then topped with a caramelized brûlée [recipe here], won plenty of admirers but lost to what Cox describes as a "truly remarkable" spotted dick made by Anna Louise Batchelor. Rumor has it that this division was incredibly close, but Cox's oatmeal lost because he included some inedible hazelnuts as garnish; the judges expected everything on the plate to be edible.

In the Traditional category, which limits the ingredients and cooking methods, Cox relied on a package of off-the-shelf steel-cut oats, clean water and sea salt -- plus a special stirring technique. He brought the water to a boil, lidded the pot, let the oats cook for 1 minute, stirred it for exactly 30 seconds, then repeated the precisely timed lidding and stirring process for almost 30 minutes while keep the oatmeal at a low simmer.The result was a porridge that was coarser than what Scots are accustomed to but still creamy and smooth.

Cox says he and the rest of the Bob's Red Mill team plan to return next year to defend their crown. "We had a great time, and it's been really fun to share our passion for cooking porridge with oatmeal mavens from all over the world."

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Left: Matthew Cox's specialty oatmeal (courtesy of Bob's Red Mill). right: Cox holding the coveted Golden Spurtle trophy. (Credit: Andy Stockton)