49 CH49: Food Competition

    "Life is a combination of magic and pasta."

    -  Federico Fellini


    On a Wednesday morning, the town was bustling with excitement and merriment as many people went out on the street, heading off to one of the biggest exhibition halls in town. Although, it was a working day for most working adults there but it did not stop them from going to one of the most anticipated events being held there.

    One of the most excited working adults was none other than Delilah, who was currently standing before the wall window on the second floor of her office building. She was watching the people who were walking on the street, laughing and talking. She felt impatient as she watched more people headed towards there.

    The exhibition hall wasn't that far from her own office. Rather, it was just a few minutes walk. That day, the Tourism Board of the country had decided to hold one of their most popular events, which was called the 'Loving the Culture, Loving the Food festival'. Although, it sounds like any other food festival, what made Delilah excited was the fact that the Philippines was hosting the festival. And she was positively confident that most of her Filipino dishes will be there.

    She even heard that there will be a cooking competition and she wanted to be there to see it.

    Unfortunately, the festival will only be held during the weekdays. And the last day of the festival was on a Friday. Although it was a working day for her, Howard had given her permission to go there. It helped when Delilah literally begged him to let her go there. She couldn't go on any other days because she has a family gathering and a meetup to go to.

    She was so ecstatic when Howard gave her the permission, on the condition that she would go there with Aubree and be back before lunchtime. She did not mind going there with Aubree. In fact, even before Howard gave her the condition, she was about to ask her to go with her.

    At that moment, Aubree was finishing off her morning tasks of scheduling meetings and talking with clients. Once she was done, she passed the tasks over to one of the admins. She gave them instructions on what to do and what to take note. She also told them to place the memos on her desk when everything had settled down.

    Watching Delilah standing with her hands on the wall window, watching, Aubree felt like she looked like a little child who was grounded at home and had to watch the other children having fun outside. The comparison made her giggle, which drew Delilah's attention.

    Delilah whirled around and walked over to where Aubree was standing. "Shall we go, Aubree?" she asked excitedly.

    "Are you prepared?" Aubree asked back, noticing the lack of handbag on Delilah's body.

    Delilah patted both of her pockets and said, "Got my money and phone here."

    "Only that?"

    Delilah's mouth opened in an 'o' shape. "Oh yes," she said, remembering something.

    She then quickly went over to her cubicle, crouched to the bottom drawer of her desk and pulled out a recycle bag. She waved the bag at Aubree and said, "Must not forget about this! We need this to carry our food!"

    Aubree just shook her head in bemusement. At first, she really thought that Delilah would bring her handbag. Seems like she doesn't know her too well just yet.

    Walking down to the ground floor, Aubree noticed that there were more items in Delilah's recycle bag that she questioned on that. "What else do you bring?"

    "Just some stuff," Delilah answered casually.

    Along the way, the two women talked while they walked. Both of them had used their hands to protect themselves from the blazing sun that seems to shine down on them. Luckily, there was a slight breeze so they did not feel too hot from the sun.

    Minutes later, they finally arrived at the exhibition hall. Both women gasped in happiness as cool air from the internal air-conditioner swept through them. It felt really nice and chilly. They were finally out of the frying pan and into the fridge! Although it was a short walk, it felt like they had been walking for hours under the heat.

    Inside the hall, the environment was buzzing with lively noises and cheery colours of flags being adorned on the walls. There were more than ten booths installed inside the huge hall. There was a big empty space in the middle of the hall, probably where the cooking competition will be held. There were many different countries participating in the event. It reminded Delilah of the other cultural food festival she went to months ago. But this one was bigger than the previous one. And she liked how there were also some performances by each country, showcasing their traditional clothes and dances.

    The two women were mesmerized by their surroundings, letting out words such as 'Wow...' and 'Awesome' every minute.

    Soon after, they walked towards one of the booths. Looking up at the sign to know the name, they saw that the booth was a representative from Thailand that the booth sells Thai food and souvenirs. It was no wonder that the booth was so colorful with red, blue and white hand fans beautifying the poles of the booth. There were also small elephant sculptures made of teak wood, and small ceramic plates on the table. But what caught Delilah's eye was the somtam. It has always been a favourite of hers so she ordered one for takeaway.

    Once she was done, the two women walked over to the next booth.

    However, before they could take a closer look, there was an announcement over the PA system. It seems like the cooking competition was about to start and the dish that the participants would have to cook was a Filipino dish called 'Soupas'.

    When she heard the dish that they were going to cook, Delilah's mouth broke into a huge grin. It was another one of her favourite dishes! She quickly grabbed Aubree's arm and dragged her to the front, much to Aubree's surprise. Delilah smoothly maneuvered her way in, pulling Aubree from behind.

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    When they finally got to the front of the crowd, there were at least five participants who had joined the competition. They were of different ages; there were two of them who looked like they were in their forties and the rest were young, probably in Delilah's age range. But what made Delilah chuckled was that all of them were from the Philippines themselves.

    She looked over at the panels of judges. There were four seats but one of them was empty. Looking at the judges, she recognized that one of them was the Philippine ambassador to the country. She had seen him before during one of the food fairs. He was also one of the guests of honour. But the other two, she did not recognize. Probably one of the sponsors.

    Just then, the MC (Mic controller or the host) walked in front of the crowds, with the participants behind him, at their perspective tables. On their tables, there was a small pot, a portable stove and the ingredients for the dish. Apparently, they were allowed to bring their own ingredients as well if they wanted to add some. Hence, Delilah could see all of them did bring their own ingredients, seeing by the look of a huge bag behind them or on the table as well.

    "Good morning everyone!" the MC shouted his greeting in the mic. "Welcome to the 8th Annual Food Festival, with the theme of 'Loving the Culture, Loving the Food'. Before we begin the competition, we would like to thank our many sponsors for this wonderful event!" He then continued to call out the names of the sponsors who had sponsored the event.

    After he was done with his speech, he began to smile wider. "For this competition, as you can see we have four panels of judges and one of them is still not here. That's because this special judge is... one of the people in the crowd!

    Yes, one of you can be the judge! So, raise your hands up if you want to become one of the judges!"

    Shrieks and murmurs of excitement and surprise swept over the crowd. This was a fun event, inDEEd. The moment the MC had said 'raise your hands up if you want to become one of the judges,' many arms were raised. And one of them belongs to a certain excited cupcake, standing beside Aubree.

    "Me! Me! Meeeeeeeee!" Delilah shouted, waving her arm frantically.

    Just then the MC turned and saw Delilah, who literally jumped on her toes, waving madly. He laughed and pointed at her. "You there! The lady with the red blouse, come over!"

    Delilah pumped her fist in the air and cheered. "Yes!"

    Handing over her recycle bag over to Aubree, who was surprised at the sudden turnabout, she quickly rushed over to stand beside the MC.

    The MC was a tall and handsome young man, with dimples on both his cheeks. He was a bit taller than Delilah with a lean body and long legs. He wore his hair in an undercut and brushed back wavy hairstyle, making him look chic, especially with the suit he was wearing.

    He began to shoot her some questions such as what's her name, where is she from and more. She answered them loud and clear, though, in her mind, she was impatiently telling the MC to get on with it so she can sit down and taste the DEElicious food.

    When the MC asked her whether she had tasted soupas before, she answered yes and that she loved her soupas to be creamy with lots of cabbages, macaroni and carrot. And of course, more soup.

    The MC laughed at her answer and said in a teasing way, "Isn't that like having a big bowl?"

    "Not just a big bowl. A HUGE bowl," she replied, stressing on the word, 'huge'.

    Once they were done with her interview, the MC guided Delilah to her seat and the competition soon began.

    It was truly a sight for Delilah, who felt like she was sitting on a VIP seat. The other judges talked to her warmly, chatting about the dish and whatnot. Delilah expressed her sincere thanks to the other judges for welcoming her and hoped that they would not get disheartened with a judge rookie like her. They pooh'ed at her words and told her to enjoy the show, instead. One of the judges also admitted jokingly to Delilah that it was his first time to judge a dish so she wasn't alone.

    Delilah watched as the participants began to boil the pasta. The small chicken pieces were already cooked so they had set that aside. While waiting for the pasta to boil, they began to cut the cabbages, celery and carrots into smaller pieces. Once the pasta was done boiling, they used a strainer to remove the water and boiled another pot of water. They then placed the cutted vegetables inside the pot and then poured some chicken stock, a cube of butter and evaporated milk. Once boiling, they added in the pasta and the small chicken pieces. They finished off by adding salt and pepper for taste.

    The soupas smell heavenly from where Delilah was sitting and she could not wait to dig in.

    After each participant had given their bowls to each of the judges, they tasted the first participant's soup. Four bowls later, Delilah decided that she liked the soupas made by one of the middle aged women.

    When she tasted the soupas, the broth was piping hot. She could smell the sweetness yet savoury smell of the broth. As she sipped the broth, it was creamy and thick. The cabbages and carrots were beautifully boiled that it softened inside the broth. It made it easy for Delilah to munch on them as it slides down in her mouth. The macaroni was also boiled to perfection. It was soft as it melted in her mouth. The chicken pieces too were cooked nicely, mixed together with the broth. It shredded nicely in her mouth as she ate the macaroni together with the chicken. The broth was rich with taste and flavour that Delilah could not help licking the bowl clean.

    After the judges had chosen their winner, it was indeed the middle aged Filipina woman who won the competition. She had won herself a hotel voucher for two at the five star hotel in town for two nights as well as cash prize.

    Together with the judges, Delilah stood up to applaud the winner.

    After the competition was over, Delilah thanked the MC and the judges for the invitation and walked over to Aubree. Delilah began to talk about how exciting it had been, tasting all the food. Aubree laughed at her excitement and was happy to see her excited that she could not help teased her as well.

    It was, inDEEd a 'magical' day for Delilah.
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