Through flood and storm they came. From Ireland, from Scotland, on foot, by bus, by taxi, by train. Undeterred by gale force winds, broken signals, tube strikes and taxi queues stretching round the block. FreeFrom food judges reporting for duty – even if some did arrive a little late…..
Our Scottish judge clocked in on time to King’s Cross but, faced with a taxi queue snaking round the block walked the four miles to Belsize Park – in a pair of very smart but very high heeled boots! Our Irish judge arrived a mere two hours late having taken an hour and a half to get from Liverpool Street to Belsize Park – a journey which should take 30 minutes maximum.
A more local judge, coming only from Twyford (around 40 minutes away) spent 3 hours held up by broken signals and more snaking taxi queues.
And thank goodness we already had Sue Cane, our in-house coeliac judge and beer expert here as this is a picture of the lane to her house in Dorset this morning – completely blocked by two fallen trees!
But the judging must go on – and indeed it did, even if with slightly fewer judges than we had originally planned – kicking off with this very fine table of breads. As you might imagine, our coeliac judges got very excited over that focaccia…
But the focaccia was not the only good thing on the table by a long chalk. Indeed, there was scarcely a bread there that would not have stood comparison with a similar non-gluten-free version – a truly amazing change from only five years ago when finding any decent gluten-free bread at all was a major struggle.
From breads we moved on to vegetarian ready meals – a new category this year as, last year, it had proved really hard to judge vegetarian against meat or fish-based ready meals. Splitting the ready meal category into meat/fish-based and vegetarians seems to have worked much better for both entrants and for judges.
Ander here are our ready meal judges tucking into bean burgers, croquettes, pakoras and veggy bakes.
And finally, it was cakes – a reward for all of those hardy travellers before they set out on the long journey home! Not that cakes were a walk in the park…. What can and cannot not be legitimately called a macaroon, the merits of cake bars over cup cakes, the relative difficulty in making a successful gluten-free lemon drizzle cake versus a chocolate brownie and whether or not, when judging cakes, we should be worrying about their nutritional profile – all were ‘chewed over’ thoroughly…. As you can see!
And so, to the last day……. Tomorrow – the Innovation category – a big one this year – and then to decide who is to give a home to ‘Marble Mo’ next year…..