|Some of the delicious pickle entries for GFA 2014|
The event was much larger than we expected, almost as big as the GFA ceremony itself. For each of the 10 categories (pickles, preserves, cheese, beer, chocolate, coffee, spirits, confections, oils, charcuterie) there were 20 or so judges ready to taste the nearly 1,500 total GFA entries for 2014, including ~120 pickle entries. In the morning, the pickle judges split into small groups focused on regions (I was South; Dan was West), and each group selected 10 pickles to recommend to the larger group based on flavor, balance, texture, and appearance, among other criteria. After lunch, the pickle judges tasted the 50 pickles selected in the morning and gave them numerical scores. We won’t know until the awards ceremony which pickles won, but I have my guesses…
|Dan's group took pickle tasting very seriously|
The pickle category was expertly coordinated by Chris Forbes from Sour Puss Pickles in Brooklyn, NY and Todd Champagne from Happy Girl Kitchen Co in Monterey, CA. While Chris masterminded the organization of all those pickles, Todd kept up our spirits by making an appearance as “Chilly Dilly”, a cucurbit that is “...kind of a Big Dill”. They kept us in pickles all day long, PLUS a parade of palate cleansers to keep our taste buds primed – the highlights included some very special GFA entries from the chocolate and cheese categories once their judges were done tasting from them. Oh, and some nice selections left over from the spirits and beer categories, too.
|Fermentation crocks from |
Counter Culture Pottery
|Dan and Linda Z.|
When Real Pickles was getting its start (is there an echo in here?), fermented vegetables were a food of the past, a fringe-hippie-food, only found in backwoods natural foods stores and in the pantries of homesteaders. A mere dozen years later, it is at the height of food-trendiness, the focus of many festivals (see this, this, and this), and the mark of the hippest hipster (any hipster worth his or her hand-harvested unrefined sea salt, anyway).
The timing of this trend is uncanny (pun intended), as this food revival is gaining recognition from the science community, as well. In just the last few years, scientists have been recognizing the amazing benefits of fermented foods to our overall health - benefits that our ancestors enjoyed and came to depend on for thousands of years, but that we have unwittingly excluded in our transition to more processed and industrialized foods. In his newest book, Cooked, Michael Pollan enumerates dozens of recent scientific articles relating the importance of beneficial bacteria in protecting our intestinal health, promoting our immune defense, and maintaining our mental well-being. Scientists are also recognizing that our recent deficiency in fermented foods teeming with live cultures may be part of the reason for some of our generation’s most serious health problems, such as allergies, obesity, seasonal colds and flus, and some cancers. Pickle, anyone?