The Great American Food Competition - My Soul To Taste Blog at - 310462

My Soul To Taste

The Great American Food Competition 
Sep. 9, 2013 7:06 am 
Updated: Sep. 10, 2013 12:59 pm
This past weekend, I was a member of an elite, back-yard-meat-smokin', passion-filled team of friends who decided it was time to take our cooking chops to the competition.  We've been preparing for the competition for the last 8 weeks.  Which is to say that the guys have been experimenting with a myriad of spice rubs and a never-ending combination of charcoal and wood chunks that made my head spin, while we girls were trying to figure out the best way to adapt our side and dessert recipes to being cooked on a grill or smoker.  Who knew there was so much math and science involved in cooking food over an open flame???  I mean, our species has been doing that since the dawn of time, right?
Well, the event finally arrived.  We dutifully packed all of our equipment into all of our vehicles, got to the site, unloaded and got down to business.  Friday night was people's choice.  The idea is to prepare your best BBQ favorites and give out samples for donations.  We pulled out all the stops.  We had a great balance of main dish smoked meats, side dishes and, something that no-one else had, desserts.  The crowd went wild!  Even though we were the smallest team (by far, with only 5 members) we raked in 3rd place in donations.  Not bad. 
But, Friday was all fun and games.  After the crowds dispersed and the un-affiliated went home, the serious business began.  You see, for a BBQ competition, the smoked meat must be carefully tended, over the span of anywhere from 6-14 hours.  It must be talked to in the language of temperature and charcoal-to-wood ratio.  It must be stared at and fussed over every hour, on the hour, for as long as it takes to gently cajole that meat into just the right temperature, just the right flavor, just the right EVERYTHING to beat out the competition.  Props to the hubbies on this one, as we girls abandoned them to their man-smoke at our earliest opportunity.  We slept the night away, snug in our beds, while the boys took turns sleeping in one-hour shifts in a car in a parking lot.  Now THAT'S passion!!!
So, Saturday morning arrived and everyone re-convened at the competition site.  The excitement was palpable.  We'd spent some time chatting up the competition and we thought we had a pretty good chance to win. After all, we've been eating our stuff for the last two years.  And, it ain't bad, if we do say so ourselves. 
The first turn-in time came.  All the teams were scurrying around under their respective tents, gently, ever so gently, lifting the chicken off the smoker grate...artistically arranging the lettuce in the box, just so....gingerly, oh so gingerly, laying the chicken in the box, in just the right configuration to be the most eye-catching.  Then "the walk" to turn the box of precious cargo over to be judged.  This happened three more times, for ribs, pork and beef.  Then, the wait.  Oh, the wait is the worst.  You feel a sense of relief, because you've finally made it to the end, but there is still a tension in the air as everyone waits to see who is the best. Ah, the roller-coaster of emotion that is the Great American Food Competition...

You can keep it! This was the first food competition I had ever been involved in, and I've decided that it should be the last. We didn't win.  We didn't even place.  What a disappointment.  I know, I know.  You're all thinking "but, Deeta, it was your first competition.  Think of how much you learned and leverage that in future competitions."  But to you, ladies and sirs, I rebut "try it before you tell me not to knock it!"  Would I feel differently right now if we had won?  Absolutely.  But I'm still not sure I would do it again. 
You see, the ugly truth about food events that you sponsor yourself, is that, no matter how prepared you are, there is always a LOT of waste and there is NEVER enough appreciation.  I'm not too proud to admit that my cook's ego can't handle it.  I want everyone around me to love my food as much as I do.  I want them to notice that the serving platters all match and be impressed by my panache and flare.  I want to sit around a table, with good friends and family, drinking wine and raking in the compliments, whether sincere or obligatory.  I do not want to stand quietly by, as a herd of strangers mindlessly pick up a tid-bit of my love and shove it in their mouth before they've even finished chewing the last bite from the booth next door.  People, you're not judging my food, you're judging my LOVE!!!
Nope, I'll stick to feeding the people I love with the food I love.  For me, winning is not a trophy.  Winning is the silence around the dinner table, after the food has been served, when all you can hear is the occasional groan of pleasure.  Winning is being asked for a recipe from your best friend or Aunt, who you think is a better cook than you.  Winning is preparing food with love and placing leftovers in Tupperware, not in the trash can.  Cooking competitions?  Not for me, thanks!
Sep. 9, 2013 8:57 am
I couldn't have said it better...great blog. I agree that silence around the table while everyone is eating, always lets me know...They love it. :-)
Sep. 9, 2013 10:02 am
Not being very competitive by nature, I doubt I would ever enter one. Like you, food is an expression my love. But at least you had the experience!
Sep. 10, 2013 7:11 am
Great blog! I like being a winner in my own home although it would be fun to enter one of those competitions. But like you I agree with the silence around the table or the occasional outburst of "this is good".
Sep. 10, 2013 12:59 pm
The DH's cousin & company competed. One year we were invited down for the "fun" start of the event. Sure the food was awesome but all that work to go against intensely serious competitors. 'Fraid I'm with you. No thanks. I'd rather have friends over to share a meal and enjoy their company!
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Deeta Jean

Home Town
Harrisonville, Missouri, USA
Living In
Merriam, Kansas, USA

Member Since
Jan. 2004

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Cooking Interests
Grilling & BBQ, Slow Cooking, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Healthy, Vegetarian, Dessert, Quick & Easy

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About Me
I've been cooking for about 14 years now. I'm an IT geek by trade, but cooking is my passion in life and I dream of the day when I can feed people for a living. I have to admit, I wouldn't be the cook I am today without tools like All Recipes and all the great cooks from everywhere who provide their reviews and priceless advice about how to make a good recipe GREAT!
My favorite things to cook
Oh, my! There are too many to name. I tend toward really deeply flavorful dishes. The more layers of flavor, the better. Indian, Mexican and Italian are probably my faves to cook, but especially to EAT!
My favorite family cooking traditions
Since I was a small child, my family has had a yearly tradition of making Christmas candy and cookies. These wonderful treats are given to friends and family for a hand-made Christmas gift. The love shines through with every bite!
My cooking triumphs
I have recently begun catering two nights a week and the group that I cater to has raved about every dish I've fed them. I have to tip my hat to the recipe submitters on All Recipes for providing me with the tried and true dishes that these guys love so much. I don't believe there is anything more soul-completing for a cook than to have a room fall silent at meal time, with an occasional groan of pleasure heard as they eat a dish you've created.
My cooking tragedies
When my husband and I first got together, I wanted to make us a real, home cooked, comfort food meal, and attempted to fry chicken. The temperature was set way too high on the pan of oil, and, of course, when I put the chicken in, it began to smoke. The smoke alarm went off, and I'm surprised the local fire department didn't show up! Needless to say, this was a disaster! I didn't attempt to cook again for almost 2 years! I'm so gald I found the determination to start again, and I haven't looked back since!
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