Saturday, August 22, 2009

Here Come De Judge

I was honored a few weeks ago to be asked by the College & Career Class at church of being a judge at the "Let's Get Cookin'" BBQ Cook off. I was told not to tell anyone...well that's a hard thing to do, but understandable as I didn't want any of the participants from church or the community to try and slip me a little money under the table.

So Saturday finally arrives and we're told to be at the church around 10:00 to be briefed on the judging part...I thought, how hard is it going to be to be a judge? We're first informed it's not unlikely that some people get so sick from eating all of the the food they have to judge that they have to throw up...oh great.

Four categories....ribs, chicken, Boston butt, and brisket.

Being from the South where barbecuing is as common as breathing, watching enough on the cooking channel and learning many BBQ tips or techniques, and tasting plenty of BBQ in my soon-to-be 50 years that I thought I learned enough of what good BBQ should taste like. After all, BBQ (that I've tasted) doesn't get any better than Whitehurst BBQ, Wayne Hopping's, and my brother Wes'. Unfortunately, Wes didn't enter in the competition because he was asked to judge, and Wayne was in the contest along with two young men who happened to be from the Whitehurst family (and they were all on different teams). We had 9 teams, but not all entered in the 4 categories. We were given score cards and rate the meat between 5 and 10....7.5 being the average number. We were to judge first on taste, and next...on the tenderness of the meat. If possible, we were to leave any comments, good or bad. Lastly, no talking while that piece of meat is being judged, but that we could talk in between waiting on the next team's meat.

The competition started at 11:00, so we have half an hour to kill before we enter the judging room. The class decided beforehand they would also have a BBQ dinner where plates were served while the judging was going on, but this would not interfere with the competition part as there was separate meat prepared on different grills for this purpose. Everything was set up so well, thanks to the hard work the C & C class had done in preparation for it. In our church's nursery in the main building, two students of that class intercepted the meat and posted a number on a white Styrofoam box as to who's team it represented....based on a first come-first serve basis. This number was written in 3 different places so there would be no confusion as to who's team it represented. In each category the team that was the first one there could very well be the 5th one in line on the next the team more-than-likely had a different number as each category changed. Next, a different person would go get that team's meat and take it over to building 2...where the judges were set up in an inner room within the building. We took our forks and as the meat was passed around, we would pull a portion away for our tasting. I had already made up my mind to go with small portions as I knew we had a lot of meat to consume this day...and I didn't want to be one that may have to throw up because I ate too much.

Upon my first bite of rib, I think I broke a rule by was so good I had to give out a big sigh, "Ohhhh man." That rib was so tender, moist, and full of flavor that I couldn't imagine not eating any more of that particular rib, so I set it aside and eventually got word to my sister to send in a Ziploc bag that would serve as my doggie bag...only this wasn't going to the dogs but to me, to take home to consume later. We had 8 ribs to try and two teams tied, so we had to take another bite of the 2 we had marked and voted again....and it tied again. So a person was pulled out of the kitchen and brought into our room and asked to take a bite of each and write one number down as to which she thought tasted the best, and that was the winning vote.

The chickens were next, and I think all 9 teams competed in this category. Again we pulled our test portions and gave our scores. By now I'm thinking, "We're only halfway through."

The Boston butts came in....all of which were different. Some had a little smoked flavor, and some were sent in with a bit of "au jus" on the side for dipping. I was good about commenting on each piece of meat in each category so far, and never really gave out any "bad" comments...maybe things like a "tad on the salty side", but nothing mean as I didn't want to hurt any one's feelings. I still don't know who's team it was, but I plucked my piece from the Styrofoam plate and as I started chewing, though the taste wasn't bad, I chewed on a piece of meat that was so springy I didn't know what to do. I really didn't want to spit it out in front of the 2 judges that sat at my table (and whom I didn't really know up until that day), so I chewed and chewed. Though the taste was not bad and which I scored accordingly, the only comment I could give was that it was "bouncy" other words, it bounced around in my mouth until all I could do was just swallow and wash it down with the bottled water they had placed at each judge's seat.

Have I made you hungry for BBQ yet?

This was fun, but I knew there was one more category and I was starting to get full. Not all 9 teams entered in this category, so I know I had at least 7 or 8 pieces of meat to test. I've always been told if you don't cook this piece of meat right, it could be be very tough. I thought, "I've already eaten bouncy stuff, I hope I don't get a piece of leather in my mouth from the brisket." I never did eat any that was too tough, but I got a few pieces that though they may have been tender, they were a little on the dry side. I've learned that brisket is not my favorite choice of meat...a little different in taste...more on the strong side. Or was it because all I had eaten at this point was chicken and pork? Never the less, I was so happy to finish my judging part and know that I was full, but not too full that it made me sick.

When all the scores had been tallied up, Mr. Hopping ended up placing somewhere in each category, and one of the teams that had a Whitehurst represented in it walked away with trophies also. All teams (except maybe 2) won some type of trophy though. And those that didn't, well at least they gave it their best shot, and they have the comments everyone left so that they can correct any mistakes they made and enter in the next competition.

I've said all of that to say this, one day we will all stand before a judge have to give account of this life we've lived. Good or bad, he won't leave a comment in hopes of you correcting and making it better. For we must all appear for the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10)

I had a good time in the BBQ judging last week, and I understand those that entered had a lot more fun as they started out early the evening before and all during the night with the fellowship of those that participated in the event. I hope I get asked again, but someone else may get the opportunity to try it as I understand they plan on doing this event once or twice a year. The event is open to anyone that wants to compete.

Whether you've heard it firsthand at church, on the radio, or on TV...we've all been given the opportunity to know what it takes to enter in God's kingdom. Some put it off and think that they've got all the time in the world to do so, and some put on a good show on Sunday and live like the devil the rest of the week (Sunday Christians, I call them), some accept and play by the handbook rules and give it their very best shot, and then there are some that want no part of Christianity. There are all type of excuses out there that may fit you, or someone you know. The one and only judge (Jesus) gives us the rules, and the handbook to go by and let's us know before time how we'll be judged. Will you go by them, or will you break the rules? Here's what the "handbook" has to say about that... Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but ONLY he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock, The rain came down, the streams arose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

It took getting knocked down to my lowest before I "looked up" and made the decision to follow Christ years ago, and the best way I can sum it up and end this blog at the same time is to say what the Psalmist said in the 34th chapter in verse 8: Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in him!