Notes from the Attic

I’m back and sorry, a little tardy on the Blog front. Life, the aliens who keep borrowing my thoughts and my macramé projects have me behind. Here is an update from the Attic…

A couple of months ago Brandy Hunter from WRRV’s Music all Morning had a great idea, no, not duct tape and a large mailing crate with an Anchorage destination for Boris but a chili cook off between the Cumulus gang here to be judged by a chef from the Culinary Institute of America. All interested were invited to fashion huge vats of their own signature style chili (regular size crock pots) in the hopes of being crowned chili champion. It was an eagerly anticipated event that drew throngs of chili aficionados from all across these great states (Bob from Production) to revel in the odors and tastes of all types of chili.

When the time came for the judging by our revered special guest from the Culinary there was a hush. He tasted, wrote notes, gave scores and made judging faces. As he went from crock pot to crock pot breaths were held by those being judged depending on the particular judging face of the moment. Thankfully none of the judging faces made by our culinary guest were those of spitting, regurgitating or dying. Eventually he was done, scoring sheets were handed in and the tension rose a notch to “Don’t we have work to do?”

The scores were then tabulated by an independent and impartial group that specializes in events such as these and likes eating free chili (Jeremiah from Promotions and an intern) and the results were revealed.

Sadly my five cans of Hormel with half a bottle of Saranac black & tan were not among the finalists. To everyone’s great delight though, Boris from WRRV was named Grand Poobah of the chili cook off. Now when I say great delight it is because we knew, if Boris were to be deemed grand chili master, it would be with a sense of humility and grace that doesn’t often come with competitions as large as this. You would normally expect a certain level of gloating and glee at the expense of the “non-winners”, as this was big, but in Boris’s case we knew we needn’t worry. He would take his “Cumulus Chili Cook Off” Champion trophy, congratulate all on a fine day of fun and quietly anticipate another spirited competition.

Then came the “Apple Pie Throwdown,” another fantastic idea from Brandy Hunter that had the staff all abuzz. Could we top the Chili Cook Off that had generated so much excitement in the building? Difficult I know, but, believe it or not, it was done. As with the chili cook off, aficionados of apple pies from across the nation were on hand to marvel in the tastes of the staff’s apple pie creations (Bob from production) and the game was on.

I decided to venture into uncharted territory. I was actually going to create an apple pie, from scratch, on my own, for the first time with no help from the folks at Hormel or Apple Pie Land or anyone else who builds this stuff for you purchase at a local supermarket. I intended to make an apple cheese crumb pie. Daunting would be the best word for such a task.

So I searched for help. First, of course, was mom. “Hey mom, I’m going to bake an apple pie”… “Don’t burn the house down Stephen”… “Ok”…

Then I sought out Beth Christy from The Wolf. “Hey Beth, any tips?” tips followed, a lot of them. She’s good at this baking stuff. She recommended I do my best to not light my house on fire.

Then I found Brandy who is also good at this. She googled apple pies and printed things. I think fire safety tips was in one of the searches.

Back to mom. “Hey mom, do you think I could have your recipe for cheesecake?”…“I thought you were baking an apple pie”… “I am” … “Ok, don’t burn the house down”…“Gothca.”

My Maria was next. She played along, made me think I was on the right track and showed me where the hose was while checking the batteries in the smoke detector.

I was set.

Talking to the experts had convinced me that I could, indeed, bake an apple pie with cheesecake involved all on my own without setting anything ablaze. After all, we just bought the place and that would probably be bad.

I then when out and bought and meticulously double checked every item on my lists. Cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, cream cheese, dog biscuits (a distraction for Shana from the odors of cooking), eggs, pie crusts, oatmeal, brown sugar, cat treats (refer to dog biscuits), 37 gallons of lard, salt, a t-shirt that said “Blessed are the Apple Pie Bakers and Silk Undergarment Makers,” and skittles (for the 9 year old – same concept as dog and cat). I also bought apples, plenty of them in case I screwed up the first attempt but didn’t destroy the house and still had a kitchen for a second try. On the advice of Beth Christy who, like I said, is good at this baking stuff I actually bought specific apples, Golden Delicious and Fuji. No, I didn’t know either. I also got oatmeal for the crumb topping instead of flour, an inspired tip from Beth.

The peeling, mixing of ingredients, extremely anal attention to the recipes and eventual baking commenced. Two and a half hours later I had, I hoped, finished building an apple pie that would be worthy of the competition that would follow the next day.

The judging for the Cumulus Apple Pie Throwdown was done by the competitors and other co-workers that just wanted to eat some free apple pie. The only requirement was that they fill in a few scale of 1-5 judging sheets and not spit anything out in disgust in an overtly obvious way. Napkins and a sense of class were provided.

When the judging was done another hush came over the throng as once again the votes were tabulated by an independent and impartial group that specializes in events such as these and likes eating free apple pie (Anthony and Jeremiah from Promotions).

The results were in. The hush hushed. The runnerups were announced, six through three (I wasn’t one of them). Then came the call of the second runnerup. It wasn’t me either. Yes, I had somehow built an apple pie, on my first attempt, that was not only not spit out in disgust but was deemed to be pretty damn good.

My apple cheese crumb pie was the People’s Choice Winner and came with a trophy and everything. Cool Huh? Boris, who had hoped for a sweep of our first two cookoffs was gracious in defeat as always and even offered to mention my name on his radio station which I’m sure came with a grand announcement and fireworks sounds. Ahhh, the magic of radio.

I’m not sure what the next cookoff is going to be, Gary Cee from WPDH offered the suggestion of a lumpy porridge competition and I certainly have some ideas for that, including one that’s just right, but whatever it is I will enter with a new found confidence and the knowledge that I didn’t have to make any insurance claims on the house. Satisfying and great ala mode.

Cheers to specific apples, a layer of cheesecake and an oatmeal crumb topping,

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