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Why you should enter the pie contest

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

What’s your best memory about pie?

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I bet you have one, maybe several. My grandfather has dozens, most of which come back to how everything tasted better when it was made by his mother during the hunger of the Depression.

Indeed, childhood seems to be a common theme when I talk to folks about pie, which I probably do more than most people. Often, there’s a parent or a grandparent doing the baking, or maybe joining in the process of foraging for blackberries or apples. I heard similar stories from “Her Royal Pieness” Jacquie Meitler, “Pie Whisperer” Mark Rinehart and from several of the folks who showed up to the “Pie and Beer Affair” at Batch on July 20.

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Ostensibly, the event was a chance for folks to gain a temporary judging position for the Mountain Fair pie contest, though plenty of attendees seemed to just want some pie and beer. I tried to convey the magnitude of the opportunity — how judges hold onto their seats as if they were members of the Supreme Court. Not everyone was buying it, but it’s really rather serious business, albeit with a veneer of costumes and champagne.

For the uninitiated, it works like this:

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Bakers from all over arrive at the judging canopy around 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning (in this case, July 29) with as many homemade pies as they — actually, let’s say you — care to enter. There’s no preregistration or anything, just do your best to layer childhood into a crust and show up before 10:45 with an idea of which category your creation belongs in: fruit, cream or exotic.

The judges, myself included, proceed to discuss the taste, crust, aesthetics, texture, creativity and name of your pie using as many snobbish adjectives as we can muster. We will attempt to ascertain if you used butter, shortening, lard or some combination thereof in your crust. We will debate whether your lime is tart enough, your peaches are ripe enough and chocolate is silky enough.

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As a relatively young and inexperienced member of the permanent panel, I’ll be under scrutiny for my taste, never mind my bona fides as a former unofficial pie correspondent for the Post Independent and member of the American Pie Council (yes, that’s a thing). How much of this is theatre and how much is serious? I’ll never tell, and I doubt that others will either.

Anyway, we’ll assemble the scores for a winner in each category and then pit the top pies against each other to crown the Best of Fair. The associated bakers will get some prize money, a special pie server and, of course, bragging rights.

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On Sunday morning, they’ll do it all again, but with cake. There’s nothing wrong with cake — I’m a big fan — but as I’ve observed to longtime judges Bob and Kathy Ezra, there doesn’t seem to be as much status in baking or judging it. Maybe it’s because there are more elements to a good pie, or maybe it’s just the sense of tradition.

In any case, none of this happens if folks don’t show up with entries. The prestige of the event is always greater when there are a dozen pies in each category. It’s a big dose of sugar for the judges, but that’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make.

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So dust off that card with your grandma’s recipe or try something you saw on Pinterest and show us what you’ve got.

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