You know the scene in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life where Mr. Creosote bursts at the seams when offered a “wafer-thin mint?” That’s kind of what it’s like to serve as a baking contest judge: after a while you think the next “wafer-thin mint” might be the one that does you in!
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I volunteered to act as a judge for the first-annual Mordecai Historic Park baking contest. I was told there would be forty cakes and cookies to judge. I figured that wouldn’t be too bad – until the day arrived and the number of entries had jumped to 62!
I arrived a little before noon to meet my fellow judges in Mordecai House. To my left was Ken Smith, WRAL Anchor. To my right was Chloe Morrison, a professional pastry chef. It soon became obvious that I was the newbie here, as Ken has also judged the entries at the North Carolina State Fair.
We sat down at a round table. In front of us was a bottle of water and a roll of mints to “clear our palates.” Surrounding us was table after table piled high with cakes and cookies. Fran, one of the park volunteers, soon began passing out plates of cookie and cake samples, each one coming with a little scorecard where we would rank them 1 to 10 on Taste, Overall Impression, and Creativity.
Plate after plate appeared. As soon as I’d mark my answer another plate would appear. Yet another chocolate chip cookie, or brownie, or chocolate cake would beg to be sampled. Before long the dozens of treats we were doled out seemed to all run together in my mind. What made it worse was my pal and Site Manager Troy Burton would occasionally pop in, chuckle at the spectacle, then walk back out. I silently cursed him as I swallowed yet another brownie. It was his place that I was taking, the sneaky bastard!
After 90 minutes of stuffing our faces, the tallying was done. The folks outside had become restless as it had taken longer to judge 62 entries than the originally-planned-for 40. Troy presented the findings to the chefs, the judges gripped and grinned, and it was in the can, so to speak.
Hard work? I’ve done harder. And while each individual entry was tasty in its own right, eating them all was anything but a cakewalk!