Over the years (just like everyone else) I’ve had some jobs that didn’t speak to my talents, verve or interest, but alas such detours allowed me to know what I didn’t want to do. Sure I survived wearing a plastic name-tag and double-knit polyester McDonald’s tunic one summer, or mowing every lawn in Tucson, Arizona before setting my sights on becoming a busboy, or auditing permanent fund dividends in the state of Alaska (where I learned I was so not a bureaucrat), but such youthful excursions made me a better man, and led me to this very day when I can say I landed my best job ever, that of a pumpkin pie judge.
How do you get to be a pumpkin pie judge? Years and years and years of unwavering devotion to dessert. And while such dedication has done little for my allusion (or perhaps delusion) of having abs of steels, the power of the pie has drawn me to like-minded aficionados and friends, who know I would take such a judging job as seriously as performing heart surgery. Where some people balk at lard in a crust, I say “Bring it on, but don’t forget the butter for added balance.” When other bakers skimp on the filling, I say “Go ahead, make my day, double it!” When the unfaithful forget to bring ice cream for the apple pie, I hand them my truck keys, and say “We can wait.” Yep, pie is serious business, and when it comes to appreciating a forkful of fluted, rolled, plain or fancy pastry, I’m your man.
This year I had the honor along with my friends Megan Hastings and Karen Biondo, both equally and overly-qualified, of judging the pumpkin pie contest at the Vashon Farmers Market. The pies were aplenty, the baking talents impressive, and the trio of crust-loving critics up to the task.
The pie line-up was as varied as Vashon pie bakers; some used homegrown heirloom pumpkins, others went raw, vegan and gluten-free, but the entrees were all beautiful, tasty and baked with care.
When it was all said and done, the Yarkin girls showed Vashon’s august bakers how it’s done. Adri placed first, Ella and Madeline second, and Mr. Berend represented silver foxes everywhere with his fine third place showing.
Adri’s pie was classic in every way. Flavor, smoothness, spice and fresh pumpkin taste made her pie the clear winner, though her sisters were a mere crumb away from taking the title, I must say.
As my friend Kate McDermott says, “Learning to make a good pie is a life skill.” Here’s to all the awesome bakers who continue to pass down this delicious tradition. Three judges wish to thank you from the bottom of our full bellies and happy hearts.