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!