Did anyone get a tag number on that truck?
Have you ever been hit so hard that the wind gets knocked from your lungs? You struggle just to get a breath, your head spins, your heart races. Well, Saturday afternoon, around 4:45 PM, just after receiving the final score sheets for the Bel Air BBQ Bash, that’s exactly how I felt, and I wasn’t even physically hit. I felt, however, like I had been hit by a screaming Mack truck.
We were walking back to our site, the awards ceremony having just ended. We had one call to the stage for 5th place pork, we were fairly upbeat when I glanced at the over all finishing order and found we had finished 14th overall. The field at this contest was very strong and included a lot of very good teams, so we were quite happy with our overall finish.
The happiness was short lived however. While still walking, I turned to page two which contained the chicken results. Looking from the top down, as is a natural way to review such information, I was into the thirty somethings and had not found our name. My weary, over taxed, alcohol preserved, working on 2 hours sleep, pea brain was having difficulty processing this revelation. Surely, I had read over our name in my haste to read and walk at the same time, a difficult feat for me even without throwing in a marathon weekend BBQ contest. A multi task person I am not. (and don’t call me Shirley!)
I would just need to stop for a minute and take a good look. The team and I all thought our chicken box was one of our better submissions for the day. At Bel Air, they call from 8th place forward; we must have been somewhere near there, even though our name wasn’t called to the stage. Top twenty for sure, it was that good. Flavorful, bite through skin, tasty, tender, we had it all packed into that first entry of the day.
Oh, and did I mention it looked good too. We were able to get 10 thighs into our box, I think that’s gotta be a world record. In short, our chicken box had it all as they say, it was the complete package.
I moved to the side a bit to get out of the main flow of the large crowd and perused the list a little more carefully this time. Where was our name? It has to be there. It was then that it happened. Out of nowhere, bam, I was down. I believe that I lost consciousness, although maybe not completely. I had thought the road was closed to traffic.
Have you ever read accounts from those that have had near death experiences, many speak of the bright light that draws them. Some have even said they could feel the light pulling them. Well, I did not see just a plain light. What I saw was a large neon sign, the light was flashing, and I could barely see it through the thick fog that was also present, (possibly related to my Patron intake the night before.) A force felt as though I was being pulled to the light. I felt like I had to at least get a little close, I had to see what the light was saying. What was it trying to tell me? Just a little closer and the fog wouldn’t be so thick, I thought as I inched closer and closer, fighting the urge to run in the opposite direction.
As I moved closer I finally could make it out, I saw a large four and a zero, the numbers must have been over ten feet tall and were blinking wildly, like the disco lights from the Babylon Club on Route 40 back in the eighties. Maybe this is what they meant by a disco inferno. The lights were not pulling me. In fact, it was just the opposite, the closer I got, the more I wanted, or should I say, needed, to run. The light was driving me away, it was repulsing, it was making me ill, I had to get away. This must be what chemical warfare is like. The whole thing just wasn’t making any sense. I couldn’t breathe; my head was spinning and also aching. Somebody, quick, call me a Doctor.
The next thing that I knew, I was blinking my eyes and scratching my head, trying to get my bearings and remember what had happened. I was looking up from the ground, surrounded by my team members and several concerned citizens. I think a stranger asked if I was alright. I know Bobby asked me, “how’d we do in chicken?” Although I am sure he meant to say, “how you feelin?”
The score sheet was still clenched in my sweat soaked paw, I picked it up and glanced again at the chicken page, struggling to get my eyes focused, and there it was, in bold black ink,
who are those guys? 40th place chicken.
I tried without results to mouth the words to Bobby and the rest of the team, but they wouldn’t come out. My mouth was as dry as the Sahara desert, I couldn’t speak. Instead, I thrust the sheet in their direction and let them read it for themselves, as I struggled to my feet. I could see they were more concerned with our chicken score than they were of my well being. I can’t say that I blame them for that.
I stumbled back to our site, struggling to understand, to grasp, to comprehend. The crowd seemed surreal, I could hear faint voices from off in the distance, “you idiot you”, “what the hell did he do?”, “I wonder if he even KNOWS how to cook a piece of thigh meat?”, “**** that chicken”, were just a few of the comments that I can recall. I am sure there were more. The fellows just weren’t happy.
The 3 or 4 regular readers of this blog, (at least I hope I have a reader or two), will recall that I have spent a lot of time this past winter working on my chicken method. Some have even considered it a chicken obsession. I would have thought that, at the very least, I had a small understanding of the procedure. Now I think not. I have hit the wall. Maybe, striking the wall was what knocked the wind from my lungs, causing Saturdays episode. At the very least, it certainly knocked the wind from my sail. I feel dead in the water. I don’t know where to turn. I feel like I am spinning wheels. I suppose its back to the drawing board, again.
After a hot shower and a good nights sleep and it was time for the contest debriefing. The only thing I could say without question was the weather this past weekend was great, it could not have been better.
I looked our chicken score over, all 7’s and 6’s, with the exception of Judge #5 who gave us 3-9’s, the highest score possible. That Judge must have been one of the 150 people that passed through our site Friday evening. Either that or he was drunk. One or the other, or maybe both.
All 6’s & 7’s, nothing “wrong” with the chicken. Average. Just nothing right about it, no “wow” factor. The same chicken we finished 8th with two weeks ago in Stevensville. The only variable was the quality of the chicken we received from our supplier.
While for the most part, we have been very happy with the quality of the meat they have been giving us all season, this week was different. The thighs were all very small, and looked somewhat thin. I thought perhaps they gave us thigh meat from Cornish hens instead of chicken, but who knows.
But alas, they are not to blame, for it was I that trimmed, prepared and cooked the chicken. And we all know you have to play the cards that you are dealt. A good cook should be able to overcome adversity and still produce some decent product, and in this case, I failed.
Failure might be a bit strong here, but I will certainly try and do better. We have New Holland in two weeks and there will be over 70 teams cooking there, no time for a relapse.
The rest of our entries were fairly solid considering the field, 5th place pork, 15th ribs, and 19th brisket. Pork, which had been our anchor last year, seems to be improving.
The over all winner was the team from BBQ Guru. Congratulations to Bob, Fred and the rest of the gang for their first Grand Championship. Back in March, there was a post on one of the forums asking who would be a first time Champion this season. My prediction was the Guru gang, I am very glad for them. Also kudos to Stoddard and Brown for winning reserve, those guys are so hot, the rest of the circuit better watch out in Kansas City and Lynchburg.
I know, I know, there will be a draw for S&B to get to the Jack. I will tell you this, at the Guru/ISS class last month there was a drawing for a new Digi Que. And the winner was, Brett Brown, the Brown in Stoddard and Brown. Talk about hot, I told Brett he should go out and buy a few lottery tickets. On fire is an understatement, somebody call the fire department.
With the exception of our feathered friend we were very happy with our scores. The team again worked well together as they are becoming more familiar with the routine and are moving ahead making the operation run better at each outing. If only the head cook could pick things up a notch or two we might be able to improve our scores. We’ll see.
As I said before, we have New Holland in two weeks. This is always a favorite of mine. I like the area and the organizers do a great job of running the show. The only down side is, it is held in the end of August, summer is disappearing quickly, where did it go? Seems like only a week or two ago we were heading down to Salisbury. Time flies when you’re having fun is what they say. This time I think “they” are right.
That’s all for this weeks edition from the WATG? blog, be sure to look in next week when the topic of discussion will be, how to feed and entertain 150 of your closest family and friends in a 20 x 20 foot site while trying to compete in a BBQ contest or next year why don’t I just fill my shoes with hot coals and walk around instead? Stay tuned.