Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Portland Pie Off

Winning Pie

On Wednesday of this past week my husband tweeted at me on Twitter about an event I had never heard of before: The Portland Pie Off. His tweet was pretty darned specific that I should enter. Like ASAP. So, I looked into it. I seriously considered it. Wasn't sure about it, though, because I only had a few days to prepare - the Pie Off was set for today, Sunday, August 16th. That's not much time to make a good decision! I talked with some friends about it to get some ideas. I talked with my husband about it and got his thoughts on it. Finally, I decided to go ahead and register online for my famous Buttermilk Chess Pie. Well, it's famous within my family anyway.

I was first introduced to buttermilk pie when I was about 12 years old. My uncle's then wife, Kim, was from Texas and this was her pie. She brought it to a family gathering at my grandparent's house and my older sister, Teri, was absolutely adamant that I should try it. Well, like any 12yo girl with discerning tastes, I was extremely hesitant. I mean, who wouldn't be with an ingredient like *shudder* buttermilk in it? In fact, it took a lot of coaxing from Teri to convince me to finally try it. Oh, but when I did I instantly fell in love! To this day, buttermilk pie remains my favorite pie of all time.

When I was 18 and on my own I went in search of the perfect buttermilk pie recipe. Over the past 14 years I have played with the most basic of buttermilk recipes and have made it my own. This is such an amazing pie that my entire family loves it and asks for it pretty much every year during the holidays. And I don't just mean my immediate family (you know, the husband and kids), I mean the extended family as well. Mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. They all love my pie. For quite a few years there I was known as The Pie Lady on both sides of my family (and then I had a couple more kids...less time for baking these days). Of course, I make more than just the famous buttermilk pie. But it is definitely my signature pie.

We do love it.

Of course, my husband being the loving and doting husband that he is (at least where his stomach is concerned haha) had insisted that the buttermilk was the way to go. So, yet again, I tweaked it just a little bit more. Doing my best to make it my own. This pie belongs to me and no one else. I also tweaked my pie crust recipe (which once started off as one from my Great Grandmother Effie Dilley) to make it just that much better. No, it wasn't just better. It was perfect according to judge Byron Beck of the blog Byron Beck's Window.

This afternoon at 1pm, I showed up at Peninsula Park in North Portland with my pie in hand and laid myself out on the table to be judged by one and all. The Portland Pie Off was my very first ever cooking/baking competition. For over an hour and a half we waited on the sidelines, watching the judging. Waiting. I managed to get a few shots of the judges obviously enjoying my special entry even though they didn't want any of the competitors milling about during the judging.

Judging

The kids played. We had a picnic lunch - my special home made egg salad sandwiches. We tried to keep ourselves busy taking pictures of the kids playing. Everyone enjoyed the merry go round quite a bit. Sometimes I worry that my 5 year old son has no fear ...

Merry Go Round

Finally, it was time to reveal the winners. All the competitors were called back over to the judging area and were asked to move in nice and close so that all could hear the announcements. I waited by my pie with bated breath as they read off the winners for the various categories. When the announcement was made for the winner of the Best Custard Pie I was shocked. I was excited beyond belief and boy, oh boy, was I PROUD! Can I just say how frigging difficult it was to keep from crying? I know, I'm a complete sap. But being that this was my first ever cooking or baking competition, I think it's to be expected, right?!?

Winner's Circle Blue Ribbon Winner

Along with my Blue Ribbon for The Best Custard Pie, I also received a Betty Crocker Cooking Basics cookbook which I plan to share with my 11 year old daughter as I teach her how to cook and bake in the same way my mother did for me.

Once the revealing of winners was complete, all who were present were invited to dig in and enjoy all of the pie entries. My pie went FAST. No, it was faster than fast. It flew off that table! Lucky me - or maybe it was lucky for everyone else? - I had a 2nd pie on hand to give others a chance to taste my truly divine creation.

The Backup Pie

After today one thing is for sure (aside from the fact that I have a winning pie recipe). I absolutely will be entering more cooking contests. Baking, especially, is a passion of mine and has been for many years. Since we moved back in June I am finding that I have to learn how to bake all over again. But, having a convection oven does that. I certainly am enjoying the lovely convection oven ... and I shall continue to share my baking spoils with the world.

Bon App├ętit.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Do You Ever Just Feel Rotten?

I don't mean physically. We all get sick every so often and usually the best word to describe that feeling is "rotten". However, that is not at all where I'm going with this. It's more a mental thing.

So, yeah, I've been feeling pretty damned rotten for the past week. I've even gone so far as to explore my use of the *F* word. You know which one I'm talking about: FUCK. Not on Twitter, mind you. In an effort to appease my husband I try to keep the cursing to a bare minimum on there. But Facebook is a different story. He's not on FB and probably never will be. Plus, pretty much everyone I chat with on FB is well aware of my fondness for this word. So, in hopes to help my mood and see if it truly is as therapeutic as some experts say I started a few "Fuck" rants on FB this week.

Wait! Stop right there! Before I go on I feel I should qualify something. Many of my friends and family who do read my blog already or who may in the future read this blog know this one basic thing about me: I am indeed a Christian. Baptist, to be exact. I love the Lord. I have been Saved since I was 12 or 13 (I remember the moment, just not the exact year). I am comfortable with my salvation and my standing with God. Yes, such language as is described above is not considered very Christian like and is in fact often considered hypocritical. However, I just want to point out this one little fact: We Are ALL OF US Sinners. There is not one person on this earth who can claim to not be a Sinner. Some of us are just more at peace with their "Sinner" side. I happen to be one of them. Again, I love the Lord and I confess Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I know where I am going after this life here on earth is over. I also know that I will have to answer to God for all of my sins I have willingly, and unwillingly, committed during my life time. But, I am who I am and I won't change that for anyone. So, if you think me a hypocrite and decide you can have no respect for someone who confesses Salvation while also accepting their Sinner status, well then you'd better just leave right now. Click that little red X in the upper right hand corner of your browser and never come back.

OK, now that I have the attention of those who truly enjoy my witty writing, I shall continue...

Where was I? Oh, yes, the "Fuck" rants on Facebook this week. Never before in my experience on FB (about a year now) have I received so many approving responses to my status updates. I'll admit it, I'm a bit of an attention whore. I do so enjoy having the focus on me at times. Not all the time, mind you, as I do have some anti-social tendencies and when those tendencies take hold of me I am mostly absent from the internet and draw into myself, away from my family and friends.

"Ha!" you say? "Jen? Antisocial? No way!" you're thinking? (Someone actually said something to that effect to me just last night.) But, yes, it is indeed true! In my teens and early 20's I had a very hard time assimilating into crowds. I hated parties with a passion and always felt out of place no matter who was there. I have worked very, very hard over the last 14 years to banish most of those issues and have learned to become a far more social person. I still don't have many very close friends and have lost quite a few over the years, but I now have also learned to surround myself with people who appreciate me for who I am - not for whom they think I should be.

Ahhhh, but I digress. I was talking about feeling rotten, wasn't I? Yes, indeed, I have been in a mostly rotten mood this week. Not entirely sure as to the full reason for this mood, either. But, the "Fuck" rants on Facebook were a sort of experiment. As I mentioned before, I wanted to see just how therapeutic it was and as much fun as I had reading through the witty and often downright hilarious comments, I found that it truly didn't help much. Now, I won't lie and say that I don't enjoy flying the F bomb every so often because I most certainly do. There are times when no other word or expletive will do. Nothing says it better than "Fuck!!!" when something has you just so darned frustrated that you can't think of anything else to say.

Well, I guess Experiment: Fuck was a complete failure. Or maybe it was a success? I guess that all depends on the way you look at it. Either way, the rotten feeling has yet to leave me. I have good moments, sure, but mostly I can't shake this BLECH mental feeling this week. Not only that but because of this horrid feeling of ultimate rottenness I've been a bitch to my family. I don't mean to be. In fact, I try very hard to stay more relaxed around the family - kids especially. Unfortunately, I have not at all been successful in that endeavor this week.

There is some hope on the horizon, though. My good friend Ariel is getting married next weekend. I am very excited and for many good reasons. I love my friend and am beyond pleased to see her so happy and in love after her last relationship that lasted 10 years and I'm not entirely sure any of them were truly good ones. The man she is marrying is awesome and he treats her like she's a queen - exactly what she deserves! Plus, I love weddings! Oh, and on top of all that my husband and I are photographing the wedding as our gift to them. I am also making her wedding day jewelry. So, with any luck the preparations over the next week for the wedding will be enough to lighten my heart and my mind if not the anticipation of finally getting to meet my friend Tori and her husband Wayne IN PERSON. Tori Wayne will be arriving Friday evening and staying with us so that they can be there for the wedding, too. This will actually be everyone's first time meeting Tori in person. We've known her through the internet for 2.5 years now and have often talked on the phone but have yet to finally meet up (even though she lives less than 4 hours away).

Hmmmmm...how do I end this now? Hahaha! I guess I'll end this by reiterating that having a "Fuck" fest on Facebook while feeling mentally rotten just doesn't cut it. However, I am pretty sure that the anticipation of a happy event and enjoying time friends is just what the doctor ordered.