Sunday, January 04, 2015

Judging A High Steaks Affair


From left: Karis, Scott, me with my eyes closed, Seth, Nate

Karis displaying the winning trophy while Seth congratulates the current and probably the future champ!

I don't know how many years in a row it takes to call some event Traditional or Annual- I guess it's up to the organizers. Anyway, my brother Scott's family had their 2nd annual King Of The Grill Contest last Monday night in Wichita, Kansas. There were four entrants; Scott, sons Seth and Nate, and daughter Karis, a late entrant. It started last year apparently over a disagreement concerning who could best prepare a steak and the winner of the inaugural challenge was Nate, the youngest in the family. As I was a guest in their home last week, I was called upon to use my culinary expertise as a judge along with Karen, Scott's wife and mom to the other three contestants, and Lauren, who is Seth's better half. In the hours before the opening bell, the four of the grillers were shopping and secretive about their recipes and ingredients and strategies. There was trash talking and the occasional rules clarification. The grilling began out in the driveway and was recorded digitally for posterity and of course, Facebook. You could have cut the tension with a steak knife. 

The judging rules were a little Electoral College-ish but I'll try to explain. The finished products of each griller were put on separate plates on the dining room table in scrambled fashion. Karen, Lauren, and I ate samples from each entrant and voted 1, 2, 3, 4 next to the accompanying plates. The contestants were then blindfolded and allowed to cast 1-4 ballots as well after sampling. When the votes were tallied, the new King of the Grill was...... actually Queen of the Grill. Karis won overwhelmingly and hers was the steak I ranked highest. Who finished fourth? Well, decorum prohibits me from publishing his name but he is my brother if that helps! Karis took home the hardware and I would guess scheming has begun for Cookoff # 3 next holiday season. I fear it's becoming a year round obsession!

I hate judging anything, from sitting on a jury to selecting the best seventh grade super hero costume during Homecoming Week. What I hate is the difficulty in separating personalities from distinctions. Each nine weeks at WCS, we nominate youngsters in both middle and high school for Student Of The Nine Weeks. I can honestly say I have never nominated someone in my class for this honor that I don't enjoy teaching. The ones who get my vote are the ones who are easy to get along with and polite. They don't have to have the highest grades- usually they don't- but they also are kids who really like having me as a teacher. It's hard for me to divorce my feelings from my nominations. Of course, the kind of kid teacher's love may be the kind of child who deserves this kind of acclaim but there is grey area for the kid who is just a little bit out of sync to the rest of the academic world. Jesus admonished the religious leaders in John 7:24 with these words:

"Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” 
I find that command elusive to carry out because I always question whether I made the right decision, sometimes in a matter as simple as which girl starts a basketball game. But this was the great thing about this cooking olympics: I was able to judge without any bias at all because I had no clue in regards to whose steak was whose. I had no doubt which was the best tasting by far to me, the meat on plate # 3- I just didn't know it was the one grilled by Karis. I wish making judgments were always that easy. Oh well, I hope they allow me to judge next year even after this expose' of the seamy side of grilling tournaments! My proposal for the cookoffs' official slogan: Man shall not live on bread alone!

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