Willie Wonka and Elf have nothin’ over Ally! I mean try to imagine three days of being in pie-nirvana—where you are inundated and immersed with pies of every kind—apple, cherry, key lime, raisin, chocolate, berry and berries, rhubarb, peanut butter, cheesecake and more. Where you have a certified ‘piologist’ and there are live pie girls dancing around like ‘QT Pie’! Then there’s a ‘Never Ending Pie Buffet’—for one small price and an orange wristband—the world is your pie! And, don’t forget the crusts! OMG, there were the most innovative and intriguing crusts created that gave the good ol’ flaky pie crust a run for her money!
Competitive food sporting is becoming a major industry in our country—oh, yeah, we’ve always had the BBQ, chili and burger contests, but now it’s extending to everything from crabs and chitlins to ramps and garlic! If you’re a rabid foodie, love to cook, have some adventure about you, then you best get your littl’ bahootie into entering some of these contests.
Competitive fooding and entering contests is not just about the winning—it’s about the culture, the ambiance, the tribes of folks that you meet and become friends with and, of course, it’s about chowing down on great food! When you put yourself out there in a food contest you’re whisked away from real life to a fantasy world! Being there in the moment, meeting ridiculously interesting and charming people who have intriguing day jobs—like Ron the pulmonary physician who competed in the amateur division—Ron has his own cherry trees and the cherries that he used in his award-winning cherry pie were picked in his backyard—and finding like-minded friends from around the country who share your passion for food is just the beginning of the journey!
At the Crisco National Pie Championships in Celebration, Florida, we, as in my roadtrip girlfriend, Beth, were in a magical ‘Pleasantville’ setting—where the lawns are perfectly manicured, the kids all wear bike helmets as they ride the designated paths that are better than most of our Interstate highways, and there’s no signs of a world in turmoil. Sometimes it’s good to escape for a few days to these settings—it’s good for the soul and spirit—it gives us a chance to decompress, leave everything behind, and be a kid again! And, one of the coolest ‘kids’ we met was Richard—the judge!
Now, judging is a huge deal in most all of these contests. It’s not taken lightly. Think Brinks guards and Ernst & Young accounting to tally the voting sheets~~then there are the ‘Pie Police’ (yes! they literally make sure you’re behaving and not poking your fingers in the luscious pies!) There was a lot of judging, pie tasting, making notes, giving scores, and the clickty clack of calculators at this competition since there were three divisions—commercial, professional and amateur. Richard has been judging the pies for decades he said—at the young age of 93, he sat fastidiously at his table, his walker beside him, and awaited his pie sample. He took one bite, and without mincing any words said, ‘Not good.’ We asked him what his favorite pie was, and with a twinkle in his eyes and a wide grin on his face, Richard quipped, “Five feet four and a sweetie pie!” You can only imagine how the table roared with laughter!! That’s just a peek at what can happen at a food competition, and if you’re there, you start to absorb the fairy-tale!
Beth and I not only sampled way too many pies, we also entered the pie eating contest! Yep, when you’re at a pie contest, you gotta partake of the hometown fiesta! We romped on the big air slide with the kiddos telling them we were just littl’ kids in big grown-up bodies—they bought it and happily shared their personal techniques for getting the best lift, bounce and fastest slide action on the ride!
So who took home the big kahuna prize– Amy Freeze of Avon Park, FL was the winner of the 2013 APC Crisco National Pie Championships Amateur Division Best of Show. She won with her ‘Sittin’ On a Sandbar Key Lime Pie’—I asked Amy the story behind the name of the pie, and she said, she was literally sittin’ on a sandbar thinking of what she would enter, and the inspiration struck her there! That’s what imaginative thinking happens—when you least expect it—and so many competitive food events are about thinking outside the pie box! Andrea Spring of Bradenton, FL a three-time previous winner was the 2013 APC Crisco National Pie Championships Professional Division Best of Show. She smacked down an incredibly fabulous ‘ Peanut Butter and Cracker Pie’.
As I write this blog, please know that I’m fully recovered from my pie coma, and I’m on a majorly strict PIET! Enjoy the shenanigans of our pictures on my PINTEREST BOARD, and, next time, I expect to see you in a competition! Here’s a big YouTube ‘Howdy’ from DoughBoy Rises!