Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Taste of Leslie County

Wow! I am a lucky, lucky man! Tonight was the Taste of Leslie County, a fundraiser for the Leslie County Chapter of the American Cancer Society. The way that the event works is that anyone or any group can enter a dish, appetizer to dessert, and any and everything in between. Then people pay $10 to come and sample some of the best cooking east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon line. A few weeks ago, the organizer of the event asked if I would be a judge.
I was thrilled! Of course I would be a judge! My parents and other family members had attended and participated in the event in prior years and had all talked about how much fun it was and all the great food that was available for sampling. All except Dad, who's famous BBQ did not win Best Meat one year. He holds a grudge, still has hurt feelings, and let's just say it, is bitter. Which could have led to the near disaster in the Stewart family home this afternoon. Here is what went down...
One of my Mom's friends stopped by my parent's house to ask what she and Dad were making for the event tonight. Apparently, Dad had agreed and signed up to participate this year, but then forgot to tell Mom, and then, in turn, forgot about it himself. I chalk it up to the Great BBQ debacle of '08 (see above, bitter I tell you), but Mom through gritted teeth attributed it to his old age and senility. Either way, Mom had about two hours to throw together a dish for 200 people to sample.
All this took place before I arrived from Lexington. As I walked into my folk's house, things looked askew. On top of Dad forgetting to tell Mom about the dish, the entire plumbing in the kitchen had decided to pick today to 'follow the light" into the great plumbing unknown. What was known was that a lot of dishes, mixing bowls, and pans were piled high on the counter, and Mom was standing at another counter stirring not one, but two, crock pots full of meatballs and talking to herself. She was trying to decide what she would call her meatballs. She ran down the list of ingredients, and I thought to myself, "How about calling them 'whatever was in my pantry that might make a sauce to throw on meatballs at the last minute'?" I, of course, knew better than to suggest that, and agreeably shook my head to her "Sweet and Sour" meatball suggestion.
Crisis averted, we made our way to the Leslie County High School cafeteria for the event. The only residual from the afternoon fiasco was that at the table for Mom's Sweet and Sour Meatballs was a sign reading Eugene Stewart, my fathers name, and no mention of my Mom. But Mom handled it like a true Southern woman: she asked someone for a marker, then marked through the word Eugene,with seemingly a lot of force, and wrote Ronnie Carol above it. Martha Stewart, watch out. Ronnie Carol Stewart can solve any crisis!
After I got there, I realized (after someone told me) that not only was I a judge, I was the ONLY judge. There was also the fact that the judge was supposed to be secret. Now, I was not aware of this fact or I would have never posted the status "I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO BE A JUDGE AT THE TASTE OF LESLIE COUNTY THIS FRIDAY NIGHT" on Facebook Wednesday of this week. How embarrassing!
I realized as the only judge to this event exactly how much food would need to be eaten. Never one to back down to a challenge, I started in on the food, working my way slowly from the appetizers, to the salads, etc. At first, I thought I should do this like the judges do on the Iron Chef or at least Throwdown with Bobby Flay. I analyzed texture and the complexity of the taste. Then I decided "to hell with it" and started pigging out. I ate. And ate. And ate. And ate some more. If I couldn't remember exactly how that chicken and dumpling dish tasted, I went back for another bite. If I narrowed down the side dishes to the scalloped potatoes and fresh green beans, I went back for more. I was a machine.
When Mrs. Sizemore, the organizer, asked for my list, I could barely speak. I mumbled out a few items, pointed at the rest. She somehow deciphered what I was saying, announced the winners, and gave out ribbons. I just sat there and thought about how I would get myself (a) out of that school cafeteria table (remember those?!) and (b) all the way out to my car.
I made it back to my parents, so all ended well. Dad didn't ask if we had fun, but none of us really could have told him. We were all too full. So, now that I am all fat and sassy from the evening, I will settle in for a long Spring nap. That burns calories, right? Think Hyden has a Bikram yoga studio?

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