Page 20 - JULY 2021 Digital Issue
P. 20

bbq competitions Food Sport is Becoming America’s New Pastime
 Vic Clevenger
Chimney Cartel
 Let me tell you a story about traveling a few years ago. After a delay of nearly 6 hours and one of those “board your plane then exit your plane because its weather radar is broke then board a second plane” kind of day, I was finally airborne heading home to FL. To make it the perfect storm of flights complete I had the air travel trifecta. The toddler kicking the back of my seat, another baby filling the plane with screams and the couple arguing be- cause she wanted to switch seats a bunch of times. No wonder the flight attendants are giving free drinks to everyone (back when you could get drinks on a plane). But all of this is a topic for an- other time because its why I was on this flight from Seattle back home to Florida that matters, Food Sport. It’s quickly becoming America’s favorite new pastime. You can see this anytime you turn on the Food Network.
I traveled to Seattle to be the MC and compete in the 1st Annual Grillfest Northwest where I was in a hamburger cook-off
against a local chef and cooked a double header SCA
sanctioned steak competition. This isn’t my first
rodeo however. I, along with many of you, have been cooking competitively for a while now. Everything from BBQ to steaks to burgers has captured my focus and I’ve been able to parlay this love of food sport into my own unique niche. Like one outdoor cook says, “BBQ is way too important to be taken seriously.”
This phenomenon began for me just like it has for many
of you, The Andy Griffith Show. Surely you remember the Pickle Story episode (season 2 episode 11)? I remember watching it again during my 6-hour delay as people were looking at me won- dering why I was laughing so hard. If you don’t remember this episode, allow me to jog your memory a bit.
Aunt Bee is making her homemade pickles when her best friend Clara Johnson stops by for a visit. The ladies begin to discuss Clara’s 11-year blue ribbon winning streak at the county fair while Aunt Bee expresses her thoughts of not entering this year. Clara, of course being a good friend, encourages her to enter, until she tastes her pickles which are horrific. She however, offers Aunt Bee some tips to improve her recipe and then really begins to encour- age her.
Aunt Bee takes a few of these pickles down to Andy and Barney for lunch when you learn this isn’t just a single batch problem but one the boys have being dealing with for years. Trying every ex- cuse they can think of to get out of eating these “kerosene cucum- bers” as Barney later refers to them, they take a bite but promptly discard them once she leaves the jail. They devise a plan to re-
place the 8 quarts with store bought and so they do. This is when the fun really begins which you’ll just have to watch on your own. I promise you’ll laugh and I know funny.
It’s a classic show with funny down home humor I can relate to and this one episode is one of many which have stood out to me through the years. But one thought it’s given me lately is food sport is nothing new. It’s been around since the first time some- one’s granny told someone else’s granny she made a better cob- bler, pie or saber tooth tiger sandwich. A lot of the jams and jellies we slather on our biscuits began as someone’s homemade recipe which they entered in the county fair. Loosely organized, the best the county blue ribbon winner could hope for was to qualify for the state fair then win another blue ribbon.
This is where sanctioning bodies have elevated this food sport spectacle to a whole new playing field. Bringing in, not only blue ribbons and trophies but prize money. We have the KCBS, FBA, MBN, IBCA, SCA, PNWBA, WFC and a bunch of other alphabet soup groups all with a slice of the blue ribbon pie in one way or another. What a few of these organizations are trying to accom-
plish, reminds me of another sport, stock car racing. Ameri- can stock car racing traces its roots to moonshiners of
the Appalachia trying to see who had the fastest of these modified speedsters.
This is when Bill France had the bright idea of or- ganizing this and NASCAR was born. This business
is still a family run multibillion dollar industry which has levels of getting to the top echelons of drivers and there’s only about 40 drivers who reach
this pinnacle at any given time. They have a 36 races in which to compete but only a few hold something special for
a driver. The Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 for instance, are just a couple examples due to the prestige and history they hold.
The same holds true in food sport, especially for a BBQ team. Memphis in May, the American Royal, The Jack all have such a history every BBQer feels it’s an honor just to compete in them, much less to win. But when it does happen, it’s a privilege only a few achieve which is why you see grown men and women burst into tears. Then you have the relatively new ones gaining mo- mentum which will launch them into another stratosphere. They won’t hold the nostalgia the others have but the prestige will not be anything less than amazing. There’s the SCA World Champi- onship which have husbands and wives competing against one another for the prize. Then there’s the World Food Champi- onships where one cook can ultimately win $100,000 is perhaps the largest of all food sport purses.
As you can see Food Sport is quickly becoming America’s new pastime harkening back to the days when Grandma took the fam- ily’s favorite jelly or pickles to the county fair to win a ribbon. Not just any ribbon either, but the Blue Ribbon. - 20
JULY 2021

   18   19   20   21   22