For the past six years I have been a competitor at the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships. At my first competition in 2008 I was completely overwhelmed by the experience. As a woman in a plain apron and a hasty purchased spurtle, I was intimidated to be competing against chefs in their whites, from all the restaurants of the big Scottish golfing resorts. However I also had the best time, made friends and made it through to the final round of the competition.
This beginners luck of success bolstered me to compete again and in 2009 I won the specialty category with my dish ‘Oatmeal Spotted Dick’
When you’ve been doing something for a while its easy to forget how difficult it looks to others. When I get chatting to visitors at the competition, people who are real Porridge lovers and budding chefs, I ask them why they don’t enter themselves next year. “No” is always the answer and ‘it looks too hard/scarey/difficult/competitive’ is always the reason.
After 6 years and 6 competitions I have decided to write a blog post to explain how to be a competitor. Over the next three posts I will take you through the preparation for the competition and the Golden Spurtle weekend. I will also share my photos and stories but most of all I aim to encourage you to put in an application form to compete in the 2014 Golden Spurtle.
Lets start at the beginning…..
The Golden Spurtle is held annually in the beautiful village of Carrbridge in the Cairngorms, Scotland. Now in it’s 20th year the competition has a long and illustrious history. The competition is quiet rightly called the ‘World’ Porridge Making Championship as it gains both global competitors and world wide news coverage.
The competition consists of two categories:
Traditional Porridge Section: Making Porridge using only oatmeal, water and salt. For which the Golden Spurtle is awarded
The Specialty Section: “made with oatmeal [pinhead, course, medium or fine] which can have other ingredients added”.
To be considered as a competitor you must first apply through the application process. Application forms become available during the summer prior to the competition. You must make your case, showing your passion and cooking experience. It is also important to read the rules, to fully understand how the competition works. Then it’s the waiting game, waiting for the committee to cast their judgement and make their selection of competitors. Once notified of success it’s action stations to make your travel arrangements and perfect your Porridge.
In truth competing in the Golden Spurtle begins a long time before competitors step foot on the train/plane/car/boat to make the journey to Carrbridge. Much preparation, testing and tasting goes on in the months before the competition. For me the preparation begins with an idea for my specialty Porridge. It can come at anytime, which can as be as early as when I’m traveling to the previous years competition! but it’s usually about three-six months before. It’s an iterative process and often my final dish comes together just a matter of days before the competition itself.
My first tip: is get plenty of practice for both Porridge recipes. Keep cooking, testing and tasting and get your friends and family to taste too. What might seem like perfect Porridge to you, can be a salty gruel to someone else.
My second tip: is practice under competition conditions. It’s easy to make a complex specialty Porridge with all the time in the world, much harder when you are making both Porridge’s at the same time and with an audience.
My third tip: is make a list! (I’m a list person anyway, I have lists for everything, not just the shopping!) If you keep a list of all the the equipment you have used to make the Porridge’s and all the ingredients you need, it will be much easy to pack for the competition. Carrbridge is beautifully remote so don’t expect to be able to pop to a cook shop for a vital bit of kit or a deli for that exotic ingredient!
Finally look forward to the big day. The Golden Spurtle is a weekend of fun, not just the competition but lots of other events in the village too. In my next post I will tell you about the Golden Spurtle weekend.