When we landed in Las Vegas, it was 70 degrees and the sunlight seemed more concentrated than any other place on Earth. We weren't in town to gamble or to drink; it wasn't for a bachelor bacchanal or a dirty thirty-birthday party on the strip. We went to the desert to make sandwiches.
The World Food Championships have become an important event in the amateur-cooking scene. There were cameras and crew in preparation for a television show that will air on one of A&E's new offshoot networks in the spring, and the entire end of Freemont Street, an old Vegas arcade of neon cowboys and Rat Pack-era bygone glamour was transformed into one, long railroad style kitchen, workstation after workstation, each equipped with stove and sink, pots and pans, and just enough counter space for two nervous bloggers from Maine to bump elbows as they sliced and mixed and sauteed.
We decided almost immediately upon finding out we had qualified to compete that we would make a Mexican sandwich called a torta, something we grew very fat from and fond of whilst living in Yucatan. Malcolm devised a way to quickly prepare pork in a pressure cooker, an ingredient usually done slow and low, so that it falls apart when ready. We knew we would have to make the many components from scratch, on the spot, but we felt that this was an opportunity for us to display a little flair and present an outstanding product.
But something went wrong. Whether it was the time constraint and added pressure of a television host engaging us with questions about what we were doing as we were doing it, or the fact that really good, authentic Mexican food is far more typical out West, our torta was not a winning dish. Our spirits were crushed. We really thought we had a chance.
Many compete, but few are rewarded with victory. This is the nature of the game, this is life. We knew right away we never should have strayed so far from home with our entry. In recounting what we could have done differently, we came to the same conclusion: we should have made a lobster roll.
We were representing Maine after all, we were New Englanders wandering in the desert, why did we overthink it, why did we not stick to our strength? We'd been living on these rocky shores, eating, exploring, and writing about food for almost four years, we've done the research, at home and at the Lobster Roll Rumble in NYC just this past early summer.
A perfect Maine lobster, steamed until tender in salt water, lightly dressed in mayonnaise, nestled snugly in a warm buttered bun. It could have been a winning dish, I know it.
If we are rewarded with the opportunity to return, to compete again next year, we will be traveling with three or four extra passengers: those bizarre, delicious, Pre-Cambrian crustaceans crawling abundantly on the ocean floors of Maine.