February 24, 2010



You know, there are a few times in life when, perhaps by chance, perhaps by design, you are chosen to do something that you are really born to do.
It may be a large, fast man who has a chance to excel in football. A person who can swim like a dolphin and eventually leads an Olympic team to gold. A person with grace and balance who becomes a ballet dancer. A cowboy who is born to ride bucking horses. The list could go on and on.
And now, I have finally been recognized for a talent that, deep down inside, I knew I had.
I was asked to be a judge at a cooking contest!
I haven’t felt that kind of euphoria since I was asked to speak at the North Dakota Beer Wholesalers convention, back when I was Senator Meyer. I know, I know. Shirley says I should have set my sights higher. But really, what could be higher.
But, back to the cooking contest. Shirley and I were part of the team that judged the “Gumbo Cook-Off” in Dickinson this past weekend.
Now, Terri, the lady that persuaded the nine of us to judge, evidently had a camera placed in a strategic spot in Dickinson. Probably at a fast-food establishment, or near the ice cream freezer at the super market. And I am quite certain that there had to be some kind of signal that would go from the camera, to the checkout person, and then forward your name and number to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
You could tell that the nine of us were healthy, food loving experts. As I looked at the panel of judges, it was plain to see, this was not just another amateur deal. We were professional eaters!
Now, my looks may lead you to believe that I am an expert food connoisseur. That would be wrong. I like all food. I like diet food, followed up by a big bowl of ice cream, or steak and potatoes. I like the Western salad at McDonalds, and wash it down with a double burger and a steak. I like a bowl of cereal in the morning, and then have ham and hash browns for dessert.
But I didn’t know diddly about gumbo. So, I read up on it. Turns out it is gravy, only they call it roux, or rue, or rew, or something like that. It is gravy with leftovers in it. For cripes sake, here I didn’t know it, but Shirley has been making gumbo for me for decades.
Well, we had seventeen different gumbos to sample! Seventeen! They gave us little cups and little spoons, and grapes and crackers and water to clean our palate between samples. I went and got myself bigger bowls and a six-pack.
They also brought us packages of antacid pills. That made me chuckle. They weren’t dealing with a bunch of amateurs here. My hot sausage dip won second at the Super Bowl party at Mavericks! This would be right up my alley!
Well, we did have one lady that knew what gumbo was. You could have seafood, or chicken. Or you could have possum or snake. You could have road kill, if it wasn’t too old. But you couldn’t have beef! I quickly dismissed that rule. I decided then and there, that as a cattle rancher, I’m voting for the beef.
The first sample was so good, I ate two big bowls. And cleaned my palate. The second sample I had one huge bowl, and cleaned my palate again. By the time I got to the seventh sample, I was starting to lose that gaunt feeling, and was out of Bud Palate Cleaner.
By the time we finished seventeen different gumbos, the entire judging team was sweating a little. And most were swearing they would not eat again until next week. We picked an outstanding gumbo, with a wonderful, dark appearance. It had a texture that gumbo chefs would aspire to for generations, and it had wonderful sausage, and beef in it.
I might see if I can get on the judging team again next year.
Oh yeah, and Shirley and I went through the drive-thru on the way home. I needed ice cream.