Johnny Finishes Inches From Victory at 23rd Annual Rhubarb Pie Bake-Off!

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We came flying in on two wheels into the Kitchen Kettle Village parking lot in Intercourse, careful not to let our cherished pie (The Rhubarb Banana Blueberry Supreme) fall in the car floor, then hopped out and ran into KKV. Judging for the Rhubarb Pie Bake Off was scheduled for 10:15 a.m., and it was already 10:20. “You must be the fellows from Philadelphia,” said an attractive lady in a giant pink hat. My butterfly shirt and the fact that we were the only people there under the age of 50 apparently gave us away. “Indeed,” I said, handing her my pie.

Ken had worked hard Wednesday night to make the ingredients, and I had spent my Thursday afternoon baking. It was an amateur production at best. I had never baked before, so I didn’t know what to roll the dough on. A newspaper? The bare table? Finally I put two cutting boards together and rolled it on them. I didn’t have a dough roller, so I used a large can of pineapple juice to roll the dough. I had no idea what I was doing, but when I pulled the pie out of the oven, it wasn’t completely burnt, so I figured that was a good sign.
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The judging began shortly after we arrived. The judge for pies (there were also competitions for best rhubarb cake and best miscellaneous rhubarb dessert) was a lady named Holly Palacious (above) who worked at a nearby Tea Room. She looked very serious as she began her tasting, and seemed remarkably focused. She tasted the first few pies and got to ours. I began to get nervous. For all I knew, they were going to cut the pie and it was going to deflate like the turkey in National Lampoon’s X-Mas Vacation. They began cutting. I held my breath. No deflating, but the cute lady in the pink hat was having a hard time cutting through the crust. She got a bigger knife. The bigger knife worked and they took out a small piece. Holly tried it. She didn’t spit it out or even wince. In fact, she decided to have a second bite! Awesome! I looked at a nearby scoresheet to see how the pies were judged. Oh, crap, appearance counted! The other pies looked like they were posing for the cover of Martha Stewart Living, while ours looked like it had just come out of the EZ Bake oven. We were screwed!

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Holly tried the rest of the pies, then handed pink hat lady her results. The winners were announced and…we didn’t win. A little disappointed, we decided to rough up the judge, but she proved too damn friendly to fight. “I saw that pie, and I thought, ‘I just know that’s the one from the guys in Philly.’ I really wanted you guys to win.” Holly added that she enjoyed the creativity of the bananas and the blueberry, and that they did a good job counterbalancing the tartness of the rhubarb.
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Shortly after speaking with Holly, we were introduced to the two ringers at the Bake-Off, Belinda “The Badass Baker” Myers (above, pink shirt) and “Cutthroat” Connie Shuff (They just went by Belinda Myers and Connie Shuff, I added the monikers myself). Belinda is a rhubarb dessert powerhouse, having won Best of Show in the Intercourse Bake Off in 1999, 2002, 2003, and 2005. But 2006 was Connie’s Year, as she won Best Pie, Best Cake, and Best of Show, or what we like to call “The Triple Crown of Baking”. Connie has been baking since before either Ken or I was born, while Belinda’s been at it for “at least 11 years.” They were amazed when they found out that this was our first ever pie, but as Ken said later, “I’m sure they think we’re gay, and they think we mean our first pie together as a couple. I don’t think they realize that this is our first pie ever EVER.”
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I asked Connie if she had any pointers. “Well, first of all, I would suggest you use a pie pan instead of a cake pan.” Everyone around us broke into laughter. Ouch, our first dose of humility on the baking circuit. But that’s what I liked about these ladies. They were in it to win it, and they both carried a certain swagger. When I told them that next year we were going to make a triumphant return, Belinda just uttered, “Well, we’ll be here.” Belinda also said that she really wanted to see us at “Farm Show” which I think is kind of an “All-Stars of Baking” Competition. See, you have to win a county fair to be eligible for Farm Show. It’s time for Ken and I to step up our game.
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Before leaving, we found out our score. We had finished with a 22, while Connie had won with a 26. We had only lost to Connie by four points! Notice had been served: There were some new kids in town, and they were ready to bake with the big dogs. Ken and I celebrated by going to lunch at Shady Maple, (the largest restaurant in the history of mankind, with a seating capacity 1,200. Seriously. 1,200 people. That’s what it says on their website), and plotted our baking future. A baking future that will probably include another run-in with Belinda and Connie. And next time, we’ll be bringing a pie pan.
Related: Belinda wins in 2005.
Related: A really interesting history of the rhubarb. Seriously.
Related: Johnny’s trip to Intercourse in 2005.
Coming tommorrow: Johnny Goes to Camden!