It takes all types
Who judges barbeque contests? Is it only WhiteTrash? Nope - it's everyone; from truck drivers to teachers to doctors to ambassadors, everyone has the barbecue bug.
Here's an interesting article from the Daily Sun about Delores Mann, former secret agent woman, now Certified BBQ Judge!
Villages woman goes from dining on caviar to judging barbecue competitions
By GARY CORSAIR, DAILY SUN (Copyright © 2006 All Rights Reserved: The Villages Daily Sun)
THE VILLAGES — Dolores Mann has tasted teriyaki in Tokyo, bratwurst in Berlin, and gratin dauphinois in Geneva, but few dishes she experienced during her globe trotting have tantalized her sophisticated taste buds like a slice of a slow-cooked beef brisket.
“When I first tried barbecue, I thought, ‘What am I eating?’ And, ‘I’m eating with my fingers! What is this?’” Mann said. “To see people lick their fingers, that’s about too much for me.”
In her eighth year as a certified barbecue judge, the woman who criss-crossed the world as secretary to U.S. ambassadors during a 35-year career in the Foreign Service still doesn’t lick her fingers.
She does, however, gladly use fingers to raise ribs to her mouth when she judges at barbecue contests with names like “Pig Jam” and “Blazin’ Butts and Briskets.”
“You have to,” Mann said from her Rio Ranchero home. “I found out that when you take a bite of ribs, the meat should pull off from the rib nice and clean. If it doesn’t, it’s undercooked.”
That’s just a sampling of the storehouse of barbecue wisdom Mann has accumulated since taking a judging course offered by the Kansas City Barbecue Society in 1998.
Mann never intended to spend her retirement years learning how dry rubs, marinades, liquid smoke and portable smoker ovens could transform meat into a Dixie delicacy. She entered the hickory-smoked world when the Brooksville Chamber of Commerce she belonged to decided to try a barbecue and rodeo as a fundraiser.
Mann, being a perfectionist, figured that taking the judging class was the best way to become knowledgeable about barbecue.
In the blink of a sauce-brush stroke, she was judging for the Florida BBQ Association, grading meat masters’ chicken, ribs, butts and briskets on presentation, taste/flavor and tenderness/texture.
Mann literally traded a life of caviar and champagne in swanky ballrooms at U.S. embassies from Okinawa to Africa, to eating Boston butts cooked by the likes of the Swamp Boys, Smokin’ Cracker BBQ team, and Kick the Tire, Light the Fire in places like Wauchula, Callahan, and Barnesville, Ga.
And believe it or not, she uses the same approach to judging barbecue that she used in the Foreign Service.
“I worked in our embassies, where there were strict standards,” Mann said. “I guess there’s a parallel, because judging is all about meeting certain standards as well.”
She also enjoys the socializing that takes place at cook-offs. Another plus: Many of the contests raise money for charity.
“It’s more than eating and playing; it’s a chance to do something good for people.” Mann said.
Mann’s bubbly personality and no-nonsense approach to judging make her a favorite with contestants and fellow judges alike. And there’s no questioning her dedication: Last month she judged from a wheelchair after falling and breaking her back.
“She’s a rare breed,” Florida BBQ Association President Joby Stanaland said. “We can always depend on Dolores, and we’re always happy to have her as a judge. Everyone loves her.”
Dolores will take all the smiles and hugs she can get. It’s the only pay she gets — judges aren’t compensated. At least not financially.
“You take your plastic bags with you,” Dolores says with a laugh. “Although I don’t take much. I don’t eat much at all.”
As much as she enjoys the taste of a brisket smoked for eight hours, Dolores doesn’t do much more than nibble. After all, she has to keep her girlish figure. Just in case she runs into Mr. Right.
“When I started in the Foreign Service, women weren’t allowed to marry,” Mann said. “Later, when they changed the rule, there wasn’t anyone I wanted to marry.”
Not that she’s actively looking. And she’s certainly not desperate. She knows that finding a good man is like cooking good barbecue.
Both take time.
Gary Corsair is a senior writer with the Daily Sun. He can be reached at 753-1119, ext. 7907, or firstname.lastname@example.org.