Saturday, July 30, 2011

Food competitions. Ugh.

I hate food competitions. I'm not talking about how many weenies a skinny kid can stuff down his gullet. That's real competition, since most weenies in stomach wins. But a chocolate torte vs a mousse vs a cookie vs ice cream, one winner take all? WTF?

Food is a blend between visual and performing arts. It should look interesting, or better yet, enticing, or best irresistible. It should burst upon your palate like a multi-flavored wave: an initial impact then immersion, then a lingering presence like the foam left by the wave's passage. It can have surprises. Pleasant, like passing a sea horse. Or not, like getting rolled in the sand and wrapped in cold, clammy kelp. Either way, who is to say that a sea horse is better than a clown triggerfish or perhaps a Flabellina iodinea? It's really a matter of personal taste.

Recently, a fellow ARC culinary arts student threw his plate into the ring in a statewide competition. First, he had to use Brand X Chocolate, since they were the sponsor. His dessert was pitted against a multitude of (I presume) desserts, all of which had to be made with Brand X Chocolate. Other than Brand X chocolate as an ingredient, what did these desserts really share?

So he threw his creation into the gaping maw of the judges, pulled the handle and waited for the wheels to spin, hoping that the stars would align, little lights glow in their heads, their ears rotate, and ribbons and accolades would pour forth to the clamor of bells and sparkle of lights.

They did not.

In the end, proud winners pranced upon the dais while the strewn bodies of losers littered the chocolate-stained floor.

Except that the losers didn't really lose, since they no doubt tested and re-tested their gustatory formulas on friends and family, perfecting them through many long hours in the kitchen. They and their friends felt their creations worthy of a ribbon, accolades, fame and fortune. That should be consolation enough, for the true competition was not the appeal of the dishes, but who best anticipated the whims of the judges.

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