Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Even good judges have bad days

Everybody has an off day, right? So we cooked the Cass County BBQ Square-Off in Harrisonville, Missouri last weekend. Had friends out for dinner Friday. As many of you know, that's something we just don't do. Even fired up the Jambo on Friday afternoon to cook some ribs, beans and ABT's for our friends. See, I told you we did stuff we NEVER do. We had a great time. Even the weather was perfect. "Get to the part about the off day!" you're thinking, right? Well, see our cook site neighbors, Ribs 4 U, have three team members. Greg & Eric are the cooks. Their third member is in charge of quality control. His name is Charlie and he's a seven year old pedigreed Black Labrador Retriever. He hales from eastern Tennessee and his parents are both champions. That's him in the pictures. Starting a year ago or so, Eric and Charlie decided to spice things up a bit with a side contest, pitting the Ribs 4 U bone from their pork against that of another team, letting Charlie declare a winner. The weird part is Charlie is like 93% accurate in determining who's pork will fair better in the contest that day. He does this by claiming the winning bone for myself. While only slightly less than scientific, it adds a bit of excitement and drama to an event, well at least for those directly involved.So this weekend it was Pellet Envy versus Ribs 4 U in the Papered Pooch Pork Prognostication. Both teams provided a competition pork bone. The bones were verified for authenticity and placed side by side on the pavement approximately 25 feet from the very eager, always watchful judge. You should have seen poor Charlie. It's his absolute favorite thing to do at a contest and the poor guy was shaking with anticipation. Even his facial expression displayed his angst. Heck, he looked like the kid riding in his mother's shopping cart that she had stopped just out of reach of the candy isle at the grocery store. A pitiful scene. Suddenly and almost out of nowhere, he received the command to release and before you could blink, he darted over, inspected his choices with a quick sniff and declared a winner. It all happened so fast, there's barely even time to get it on film, even though we were ready and waiting with our cameras. But this time something strange happened. Charlies raced over, sniffed and snatched up the Ribs 4 U bone. Then, suddenly, after taking only a step or two, he made a quick circle, dropped the obviously inferior final product and snatched up the Pellet Envy blade bone. Then, and just as I had declared victory, thrusting my gravity challenged body into the air to simulate a Tiger Woods style celebration, Charlie rejected the PE pig skeletal member and again scooped up his teammates offering, swiftly departing the judging area, headed for a celebration of his own.What had just happened? Was history in the making? Until that day, Charlie had never displayed indecisiveness, not an ounce. But on this day, he had chosen a winner, considered the hanging chad, and ultimately returned to his original choice, all in a matter of seconds. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, all in only moments. Honestly, it was near heart breaking and totally confusing. Could it be so close that even Charlie was unable to pick the true pork champion of the day? What was the true meaning of his actions that afternoon? We would have to wait for awards to confirm the outcome.On this day, Charlie's indecision wound up costing his team. Congrats to Ribs 4 U on their Reserve Grand Championship. We won the event with a brisket win and third place calls in chicken, ribs and pork. Our pork finish bested Greg, Eric and Charlie, ultimately deciding the win. We had a blast and will graciously accept any rematch offers tendered at future events. Special thanks to Charlie for providing some entertainment on that Saturday afternoon. Enjoying time with friends is what makes these events special. Getting to see some folks I haven't seen in over 25 years and meeting their families for the first time really make contests like this one memorable.

I'm headed to Albert Lea, Minnesota to cook solo this weekend. It's an easy drive. They're expecting about 40 teams so it should be fun. Good luck to all the teams competing this last weekend to qualify for the Jack Daniel's World Invitational BBQ Championship. See you all on the bbq trail.

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