There were 4 soups left, and mine had made it into the last round. The question was, would I win the competition or not? I would find out in a few seconds.
Each year we, that is, a sizable foreign contingent in Huangdao, have a soup competition where each person will bring a soup, and after tasting each one, we then vote for the winner. Last year, I made a cheesy broccoli and rice dish that nearly everyone avoided and I barely ate. But this year was going to be different. I was determined to win the competition.
First I had to decide what to make. A fellow teacher provided me with a crockpot and gave me some choice advice about what ingredients to use and where to put them. As a fledgling cook, I didn’t even know how to properly use a crockpot. After diligently searching allrecipes.com, I realized that there were approximately one thousand different ways to make a soup in a crockpot. I just needed one way. The one with minimal ingredients and good ratings seemed like the way to go.
After hauling the soup elements back home, I was ready to make the soup. I got quite emotional while cutting onions, but aside from that, it was a fairly routine task of mincing and chopping vegetables with my cleaver. Then it was time to place the ingredients inside my crockpot. First the raw, flabby chicken, then some chile peppers and onions, and to top it off, a garnish of salsa and various secret spices. I added some liquids to the mixture, and now it was time to let the crockpot do all the work. Besides I had class in a few minutes, so there wasn’t much else I could do.
When class finished, I was concerned that all the liquid had evaporated and the chicken was burnt. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was still liquid in the pot, and the chicken was greedily absorbing the broth. This might actually be an edible soup. Several hours later, it was time to transport the soup to the party. Of course, it was raining outside, which made the transportation process somewhat bothersome. But in the end, my soup safely made it to our party function.
Apparently, each soup needed a name. So I wracked my brain for a few minutes and came up with “Chicken Sizzler.” Seemed appropriate. A little catchy, but not too ostentatious. I had some tough competition. There was a barley soup, a toscana soup, and a lot of potato soups too. And of course, competing against experienced cooks was intimidating, but not an obstacle that couldn’t be overcome. As the soup sampling began, I carefully watched my pot to see if anyone even dared to try it. Surprisingly enough, many people sampled it, and some even said it was good. I just might have a chance.
After we had gorged ourselves on soup and hearty wheat rolls, it was time for the ballots to be cast. Who would emerge the victor of this soup competition? Naturally I voted for my soup, wrote my soup number, “2,” on a piece of paper, and placed it in the basket amidst an array of other soup ballots. There were rumors that Lisa and I were in the running for first place, but you never know how much faith you can place in such things. So I waited for the results.
Finally, everyone had finished voting, and the four finalists were announced. In fourth place was the leek soup. Well, at least I had made it to the top three places. Third place – another soup that wasn’t mine. The rumors were true – either Lisa or I would clinch the winning spot. I was on edge. Would I actually win first place? And in second place is the “Chicken Sizzler” made by Paul Finkbeiner. Ah, so close to victory, yet so far away. To be honest, though, second place isn’t so bad. Even though some people brashly call it “first loser.”
Lisa got a purse for first place, and I chose some delectable Hershey chocolate bars for my prize. They wouldn’t last very long. Later on, I congratulated Lisa on her victory. It was a noble battle, and she had prevailed in the end. Despite the crushing loss, which left me emotionally drained for a few minutes, I realized that I had bested some experienced cooks. And now at least I knew I could cook a soup.