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Cal and his lovely wife Sonja were judging last weekend in Marshalltown and invited me over to see what was going on. Living in my own world I didn’t even know there were sanctioned comps in Iowa. Mistake #1. Since Cal and I met here I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet him and be able to put a face to the name so I worked ahead and got my kitchen pass validated for the day.

I have hit a few comps out of state over the years, but the only thing I’ve ever been interested in is grabbing some Q and dashing off. Mistake #2.

A friend of mine and I left home on a rare sunny morning for the 2 and half hour drive to Marshalltown. By the time we got there is was raining and blowing off and on. We wandered about and purchased a brisket Sammy from a vender. Mistake #3. While it was a very generous portion we didn’t think it was as good as what I make with my AmeriQue

We caught a comp cook vending ribs between turn ins. While he was piling the ribs onto the plate I kept thinking he can’t put another one on there. Mistake #4. They were really good and I had to eat all of them. Mistake #5.

In between the raindrops we walked from one end of the park to the other end a couple of times talking to the cooks. I noticed there were several cooks displaying past Grand Champion and/or Reserve Champion banners, truly an impressive group of cooks. If the rain picked up we would duck under one of the cook’s tents or covered areas, trying to stay out of their way. Mistake #6. The conversations would become a little more intense, but always just short of the “family secret” and usually came with samples. I was becoming afraid I would put myself into a food coma, if there is such a thing.

There were several smokers I had seen in action, Webber, Brinkman, several homebuilt, as well as several I had read about but had not had an opportunity to see up close and personal Old Hickory, Stoker, Big Green Egg, and Fast Eddie to name a few. The FEC was very well represented. Even the cooks using other smokers spoke highly of them. I made it a point to talk with 2 or 3 cooks using each of the differant smokers. Mistake #7. I met a FEC dealer who is only a couple of hours from my house. He had one on his trailer, but wasn’t using it. He directed me to another cook if I was interested in learning about the FECs.

We moseyed over to a shiny new trailer with 2 FECs on the back of it and struck up a conversation with the cooks. Mistake #8. They told me they liked them so well they had 3 of them. As the conversation progressed he offered to sell me one at what I thought was a reasonable price so he could buy a left hand one. As the conversation progressed further he offered to sell me his old trailer at what I thought was a reasonable price. By then I’m already figuring on ways to run this by my wife.

By the time the awards were given out it was after 5:00 and I figured my only chance was to beat feet home to attempt to build a few brownie points. I got home just as my wife had finished officiating a large wedding. SCORE The timing was perfect a quick change of clothes and I could escort her to the reception and perform some of my “preacher’s wife” duties. Everything was going great and she was in a good mood. Since timing is everything I figured I’d find the right moment and run it by her. Mistake #9. She listened and seemed some what interested. She didn’t say no, but she said something about cleaning out the garage and buying a new car. I’m beginning to think this is gonna be one expensive smoker.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I did get to spend about 3 hours talking with Cal and Sonja, although Sonja was pretty quiet. Actually in retrospect I think it would have been difficult for her to get a word in edgewise.

If any of you cooks out there think you can turn out a fairly good Q but aren’t really interested in doing a competition I would strongly urge you to not let that keep you away from the competitions. You owe it to yourself to go rub elbows with a few really good cooks. You don’t have to compete to go to a competition and have a really good time. I know I had a great time.

Cal thanks for inviting me to BBQ in Marshalltown and showing me a really great time. I picked up a lot of really great pointers, and as they say knowledge is priceless.

Smokin I’m sorry this was so long and it doesn’t have any pictures, but at least it’s about somebody smoking something.
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It was a little funny when I came out of the judging building and meet Arnie and his buddy. They were chowing down on a serving of BBQ and I told him that I had to judge desserts, but I would be right back I had something for him.

I was a table captain at the contest, so we had boxes of samples made for us from our table....well I should say Arnie had a box of samples, I'm really sorry that I didn't have enough dessert left to share, oh well! You could tell he wasn't wanting/needing more Que, but he took it!

Don't let that sandy hair blue eyed wife of mine fool you by being quiet. She has taken cooking lesson from Rod and Sheri(Pellet Envy) and has actually helped another team(friends of ours) box up their turn-ins while I was judging the contest.

Arnie was right, there was no shortage of FECs at the contest. Glad you enjoyed yourself and hope there is a FEC100 in your future.

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