And just what have I gotten myself into? It started as a selfless attempt to serve my community, and now, with the publicity and all, I’m finding myself on the ground floor of a major kickback scam. No matter what happens, I’m bound to offend some, please others, and disappoint a few. Some will leave the Portland Pie-Off with beautiful ribbons of glory and some will leave with berry stains on their teeth.
Yes, my intentions were purely to serve the community. I selflessly volunteered to be a judge at the first annual Portland Pie-Off – and they took me up on it! I, along with two others, will be the featured judges at this historic event.
Now, what are my qualifications you may ask? Officially, I have none. But, flying under the radar, I’ve been testing my culinary skills since I was just a lad.
My mother had this idea that boys could be just as proficient in the kitchen as any girl – or, because she had no daughters, she just wanted us to play house with her, but I digress. She bought me my first cookbook when I was 10 years old. It was a Betty Crocker Children’s Cook Book and I was responsible for cooking dinner once a week.I also learned how to make cookies, cakes, and other pastries.
Fast forward about 12 years and you find me working in a fire station in West Slope. I didn’t know that the shift shared cooking responsibilities and I didn’t know they were upset with me because I wasn’t helping. One day, the engine crew came back from the store and they dropped six pounds of chicken and a sack of broccoli into my lap. Apparently it was my time to cook.
I had never cooked chicken in my life. In fact, I had been a vegetarian for almost six years at that point in my life. I didn’t know where to start. I asked for help, but they all got up and left the day room – leaving me to suffer through this on my own.
To this day, Captain Jack laughs about my infamous fried chicken recipe. For your enjoyment, never before published, here is the recipe:
- First, pre-heat a skillet (preferably cast-iron) to its maximum temperature.
- Next, add about a quart of oil and wait for it to boil or smoke (take adequate fire precautions)
- When the skillet is glowing red and the oil is boiling, stand back and add chicken.
- It would be best to toss the chicken in from a distance to avoid hot oil burns!
- Immediately remove the chicken to prevent incineration.
Yes, this is my infamous recipe for “burnt and raw chicken.” Black and crispy on the outside, pink and raw on the inside. The crew was so angry at me. To this day, I think some of them still believe I did this on purpose. I didn’t – I was just totally out of my league.
Over the next decade, as a line firefighter/paramedic, I actually became quite proficient in the kitchen. Several of my meals became perennial favorites. Just the other day, at a retirement party, some were mentioning a few of their favorites.
When it comes to omelettes, I can’t be beat (ba-da-dum!) Breakfast is a specialty, but I have many tricks up my sleeve. But probably my best claim to fame is my grandmother’s apple pie. All pies at the Portland Pie-Off will have to exceed the memory of her pies. May the best piemaker win!
Come on by Washington Park, this Saturday afternoon @3:00pm – it’s going to be fun!