Thursday, September 23, 2010

Roadkill Festival - For Real Folks!!!

Okay, I promised you a Roadkill Festival ...

Roll on in to Marlinton, West Virginia on September 25th to check out the 25th Annual Harvest Festival & 20th Annual West Virginia Roadkill Cook-Off. This is one of the region's most exciting and fun events and has been covered by a number of RV shows over the past few years. The Fine Living Channel did a piece on this event in January. (So, how do YOU define "fine" living?!?)

Yep, you can even sample some of these exotic and unusual dishes that range from squirrel to bear, and everything in between. The big winner in 2009 was a team called Two Crooks and A Cook. their winning presentation was "South-of-the-Border Mishap" armadillo, roadrunner and hitchhiker tacos. The Coal Hollow Brothers took 2nd with "Frogut's Jumpin Jambalaya" made with frog meat, sausage and chicken. (Sounds like a true bayou recipe to me.) The Ridge Runners walked away with 3rd featuring their "specialite de la maison" -Smeared Hog with Groundhog Gravy, served with Bear Butt Appetizers. (The latter were made from real bear meat but I'm not sure if the part designation was accurate.)

Oh yeah, there are the normal festival activities there, too - things like horseshoes, fine art demos and show, music and stage entertainment, sports tournaments, a dog show, a baby pageant, 5 K run, parade, etc. There's even a Miss Roadkill crowned. (Now, there's a title a girl can boast about for years!!)

Looking for something a little more run-of-the-mill ? If you insist. Over in Elkin, North Carolina, also on the 25th, is the 14th Annual Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival will be looking for the largest pumpkins in the 5th Annual Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Growers from all over the East Coast will be there to enter their oversized edible gourds. Last year, Ricky Holder won with the North Carolina Record Pumpkin at 1,258 lbs. Hungry? Then try your skills at the Pumpkin Pie Eating Contest.

Okay, now there is absolutely NO excuse for y'all to sit home this weekend. Get out there and try something new to eat!!! (I think I saw a dead possum about a block down the road. Maybe a little sauce...)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's to eat this weekend in the festival world?

What comes to mind when you hear the words KFC Chicken?

I immediately picture Colonel Sanders. The Colonel opened his first fried chicken restaurant in London, Kentucky in the 1940s and the 21st Annual World Chicken Festival celebrates that heritage each year. This year's event, starting on 9/23 and flowing through 9/26, is expected to draw over 250,000 spectators.

One of the activities here that caught my attention are the World's Largest Stainless Steel Skillet that can cook 600 chickens at one time!! (Since 1992, that skillet has cooked over 120,000 fried chicken dinners at the festivals!)

Measuring 10'6" in diameter and 8" deep, the skillet has an 8' handle and weighs 700 lbs. It holds 300 gallons of cooking oil. Just to bread the 7,000 pieces of chicken that will be cooked there at this year's event will take 375 lbs of flour, 75 lbs of salt, 30 lbs of pepper and 30 lbs of paprika. They won't tell us anymore about the "secret ingredients" that give that chicken it's fantastic flavor, though.

Once you've eaten your fill of chicken, you can meander over to the Colonel Sanders Look-A-Like Contest or check out the Crowing, Strutting and Clucking Competitions.

Or, you could hang around for the Redneck Games! This year's games include: watermelon seed spitting, spam eating, toilet lid horseshoes, a redneck joke competition (with audience participation), armpit serenade (judged by song recognition), bobbing for pig's feet (done blindfolded), burping contest (judged on length of burp and song content) and corn shucking. You just don't see these things everyday!!

How about something a little more tame? Then check out the Irmo Okra Strut Festival in Irmo, South Carolina on September 24th and 25th. The main guest of honor here is, of course, okra! Featuring Okra Eating Contests on both Friday and Saturday, this festival features all the traditional food fare along with their famous "fried okra", deliciously seasoned and served up by the Lake Murray-Irmo Women's club. (Check out the festival website for a great recipe for this.) There is a "Guess the Pods" contest and other okra related competitions. The festival parade featuring over 100 units, is the State's largest festival parade!!

Finally, go west young friend! Head for The Whole Enchilada Fiesta in Las Cruces, New Mexico, held September 24th- 26th. There, you will find the World's Largest Enchilada (It holds the Guiness title!)

You can watch them construct this giant behemoth at 11 a.m. on the 26th. They'll use 750 lbs. of stone ground corn to make the massa dough to make the giant tortilla. Once pressed, the tortilla will be carried by 14 men to the cooking vat filed with 175 gallons of vegetable oil. (Did I mention they heat that oil to 550 degrees?!?) Once cooked, those men will carry the tortilla to a custom made serving plate where the enchilada will be filled with chile sauce, onions, and more. It takes approximately 2 1/2 hours from start to finish in the making of the World's LARGEST Enchilada! Spectators will then be given the opportunity to enjoy free samples of the whole enchilada.

Drats!!! I've run out of space, tonight.

Tune in tomorrow for the most interesting event of the weekend - a Roadkill Festival!! (Seriously, folks. I kid you not.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Forget

9 - 11


It's been nine years since we lost our
sense of safety and security in our homeland

Life as we knew it, will never be the same.

Friday, September 10, 2010

This week's more unique food fests ..

Do you like kolaches? Do you know what a kolac is? They're extremely popular pastries bought to America many moons ago by folks of Czech and Slovak background. They're easy to find in Texas and in Western Pennsylvania where there are large Czech populations. Want to try some? Then get yourself to Caldwell, Texas on the 11th for the Kolache Festival.

More into Popcorn ?
Then you're in luck, there are multiple popcorn festivals happening this weekend. Among other activities and entertainment, you can view popcorn sculptures and taste food specialties made with popcorn at the Beavercreek Popcorn Festival in Beavercreek, Ohio or you can visit the Wyandot Popcorn Museum at the Marion Popcorn Festival in Marion, Ohio (the Popcorn Capital of Ohio). There, you can enter the Popcorn Recipe Contest where the finished product must be edible and must contain popcorn and attend the Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Parade on Saturday Speaking of Orville, his native Valparaiso, Indiana boasts the First and Oldest Popcorn Parade, celebrating its 32nd year this weekend at the Valparaiso Popcorn Festival.

Okay, we all know we cannot live by dessert and snack foods alone.

So, let's head over to the Ayden Collard Festival in Ayden, NC (9/10-9/12) for some greens. Along with some top notch entertainment all three days and the other standard festival activities, you can enter your little ones in the Collard Patch Kids Contest. Do they smile sweetly, say the cutest things, or just look adorable? Well, you get the idea. There's a Collard Cooking Contest on Saturday and you must have your collards with you and ready to be judged on stage at 1 p.m. Prefer eating to cooking? Then sign up for the 36th Annual Collard Eating Contest. There are two categories - male and female. "The only rule is you must eat each pound of collards completely and you can add anything to it while eating them. Eat as much as you can for the 30 minute time period, keep them down long enough to get your prize, and you just may be crowned the Collard Eating Champion!"

Ever thought you might like to cook like the pioneers?

Then you need to get out to Eagle Creek, Oregon for the Dutch Oven Cookoff on the 11th. Old time music and dutch oven cooking combine for the perfect day to visit the Philip Foster Farm. Bring your instrument and join a jam session, or sign up to compete in the cook off. There are 3 categories to "The Pioneer Challenge" - Main Dish, Bread and Dessert. Compete in one or in all three. Or, just come to watch and taste.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Follow the smoke !!

**This is a rare post that has also run on my other blog this past week. I don't usually do that, but it was appropriate to both. (Sorry!)

After 3 weeks away from home we relaxed for a day and a half and then were up early Saturday morning to travel to the heart of Amish country for one of the most prestigious BBQ competitions in the East - the New Holland Summerfest in New Holland, PA.

It was an absolutely beautiful day for such an event. (Last year, we had a monsoon!) You could see and smell the smoke a block away and as we approached the park, every tent appeared to be busy getting ready for the first turn in of the day.

A KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society - the largest BBQ sanctioning group) sanctioned event, this contest features the four required categories of chicken, ribs, pork shoulder/butt and brisket as well as two ancillary categories - chef's choice and, new this year, chili. Quite a few teams also participate in the whole hog competition. Those last three categories are optional.

This shot, to the left, shows a team (Pork & Dean's from Phoenix, MD) preparing their whole hog entry.

**It should be noted that BBQ is the only truly American food legacy. People come here from other countries hoping to try real American BBQ!!

Due to space limitations, this event is limited to 72 competition teams. There is a long waiting list to get in and teams know time is of the essence when their application for this one arrives. The field is pretty much full within a week or so of the applications going out. This year, teams came from as far away as Ontario and North Carolina, with the majority hailing from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware. These tend to be 72 of the very best in the region.

Likewise, it is quite popular with the judges. A contest this size needs 72 Certified Barbecue Judges (CBJs) as well as 12 Table Captains (usually also Certified Judges). This year, there was a judges waiting list of about 125 names. We also get our forms returned within a day or two of receipt. For years this competition has been able to boast that ALL judges are "certified."

Certified Judges actually attend a class to learn how to rate truly good BBQ. There is more involved than simply saying it "tastes good." (Although, taste IS important to the scoring!) Judges are taught to recognize the correct texture for properly cooked meats, appropriate uses of seasonings and marinades so that they lend flavor but still allow a meat's personality to shine through, and how a serving should look to appeal to our visual senses. Tenderness is also scored separately.

Cook teams have a lot invested in this venture. They provide their own meats and supplies, have thousands of dollars invested in smokers and other cooking equipment, travel long distances and spend at least 36 hours on site preparing their entries (ALL cooking MUST be done on site.) While you see star competitors on TV who have won thousands of dollars in competition, most cooks are extremely happy to receive even the smallest monetary reward for their efforts. They MUST enjoy the activity as they sure aren't in it to make a profit!!

Judges are also in it for the love of BBQ. We are not paid. Most of us travel long distances at our own expense - some stay in hotels. We spend 4-6 hours on site in the process of judging. We have judged contests in 100 degree heat on more than one occasion and also have practically frozen to death at cold windy sites. Most judging is done in tents not buildings so weather does factor into our comfort. (If you watched BBQ Pitmasters last season and saw the Dover competition, you saw the coldest and rainiest event we've ever personally judges!)

In return, we get to taste some of the best smoked food in the country!! We've made great friends with other judges and cooks and their teams. (Just for the record - All judging for KCBS is blind judging so friendship with the cooks is not a hand up to any of them.) We've attended some events with fantastic entertainment where we stayed all evening just to enjoy the music. We've gotten to know some fantastic folks working hard to put on quality events in their communities. The Big Guy and I have been happy to sit and talk with new organizers and give some advice as to what they need to do to pull off a great event. We've taken new judges under our wings and guided them a bit through their first experiences. Since we are quickly identified by our judging shirts and name tags as we stroll through an event we are always approached by spectators who ask questions about the judging process and BBQ in general. In effect, we are ambassadors for BBQ. ALL of the judges we know have done these same things. We want folks to enjoy and promote BBQ. It's as American as apple pie and Chevrolet!
A very full and happy judge!!

Each judge tastes and scores only six samples in any category but even at that rate, we are served approximately 2 lbs of meat at any one competition (This does not include whole hog categories. It takes a special appetite to judge Whole Hog. I have never done so.) Obviously, we cannot eat all of that in one sitting. Most of us take 2 or 3 bites of a sample and move on to the next. That is usually enough to reach a score. This means we each have lots of leftovers to take home. (I've become a whiz at creativity with left-overs!)
We are not scheduled to judge again for a few weeks but, who knows, something unexpected often comes up!

** For more info about KCBS contests, both competing and judging, check out the KCBS website at

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"You like tomato and I like tomahto Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto..."

However, you pronounce it - "They're heeeere!" The tomato harvest around these parts is at its peak.
Which brings us to the next question in our lives: How many ways can you come up with to serve, prepare, share and preserve tomatoes?

We did not plant our own this year as we knew we would not be home to tend a garden for much of the season. That's not a problem, though. Everyone else we know did. Now is the time of the season when you open your door in the morning only to find someone snuck up through the night and left a basket of gorgeous red/orange orbs on the doorstep. You come home from the store and find a plastic store bag dangling from the doorknob with, you guessed it, a few tomatoes! You can't leave a friends' home without a care package of tomatoes being jammed into your hands. I just LOVE this season!!

When we arrived in Nebraska to stay with family on this last trip, we found they'd definitely overplanted. Tomatoes of all sizes were ready and invading every counter space in the kitchen. A pot of salsa cooked nightly. Meals were planned around tomatoes. If you weren't careful, you received sliced tomatoes on top of your corn flakes in the morning!! Throughout the weeks, the freezer filled with both salsa and sauce for future use. We ate them sliced, fried, baked, grill-roasted and every other way you can think of. (I DO love a good tomato sandwich. Good thing!)

I'm thinking about finding the perfect tomato bread recipe to work with today. (I'm sure that would be a good way to freeze some of this stuff, too!)

Seriously, we do enjoy this part of the year with all the fresh veggies and fruits available to us. I think The Big Guy could live on fresh corn on the cob alone. Except, he would miss the tomatoes, zucchini, melons, beans, peaches, apples, etc.

We've got a friend who actually seemed sympathetic the day we told him we'd eaten corn, sliced tomatoes and melon for dinner. (He's a steak man, himself, and I think he thought we'd fallen on hard times.) Personally, we thought it was delicious meal that night!

Don't get me wrong, we DO eat MEAT. Check out tomorrow's post and you'll understand.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I'm baaack!! (I think.)

So sorry, folks. It seems forever since I've posted here. Summer is a tough time as there are so many events and activities pulling on us from all angles. To complicate that schedule, we had a need to visit family for several weeks to help with a medical situation. Unfortunately, that household does not have internet access and the time simply wasn't available to go search out access elsewhere.

While I love the blogs and the writing process in general, family comes first. You do what you need to do. Things have leveled off now and we're back in the old homestead with my trusty little electronic friend. I can now get back to all of you - my cyber friends. Thanks for being patient and waiting for me.

I've already planned out this week's postings so I hope you take time each day to stop in and visit. I'm always glad you came by.