When we last left our long suffering heroine, she bravely asked herself:
"Can I cook with cream cheese and remain true to myself as the Determined Dieter - and can I stand another disappointment if it doesn’t go my way?"
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Despite prior contest related heartbreak, I decided to bite the bagel - so to speak - and came up with two recipes for the first round of The Real Women of Philadelphia: The Philly Nibbler, an updated version of my Gobblers – this time the cornbread muffin batter made with cream cheese and the inside of the muffin stuffed with cocktail shrimp, and The Philadelphia Holy Roller, a crab and cream cheese stuffed salad roll.
It was also beginning to dawn on me that this was going to involve a lot more than coming up with recipes and the shooting of videos because Kraft Foods Canada had created an entire website and online community devoted to the experience.
What I didn't understand, however, was how much these women - all vying for spots as finalists - would come to mean to me.
There would be sixteen finalists in total; four cooks to represent four categories: Appetizers, Side Dish, Entree, and Dessert. Each week cooks from across Canada would submit videos of their recipe creations, starting with appetizers over an eight week period and would wait in nervous anticipation for Wednesdays - the day two finalists were selected each week.
The sixteen finalists would be flown to Toronto, all expenses paid, to compete in a live cook off where the winner in each category would take home $20,000.00, have their recipes published in a cookbook by KRAFT, and host the Real Women of Philadelphia website, taking over from food network celebrity chef Anna Olson when the contest was over.
With all that at stake, I and my trusty production assistant/husband, Vaughan, began to plan the first video and wanting to make the best first impression possible, I scheduled myself to release it at 12:01 am Toronto time on the first day of the competition.
There were a few challenges with my early videos though. First, I had no idea how to edit so that anytime I made a mistake we had to start all over again. And somewhere in the planning process I came up with the notion that cue cards would be a good idea which meant my husband not only had to film me, he had to hold my cue cards up and in the right order.
I would emerge on camera, a super host in white spandex with a beaming smile - and though I have no idea how many Philly Nibblers we actually ate that first day of filming, suffice it to say, if I never see another Nibbler again, it will be too soon.
After six hours, fifteen tries, and several threats of marital litigation, we finally had a version I could sign off on, and true to my promise, it was submitted during the first minutes of the contest.
In the meantime, I was making myself known on the Real Women of Philadelphia posting boards where everyday Anna Olson would post a message or a question for the community - and in the spirit good first impressions, I spent a little over an hour my first morning crafting a response to a question Anna posed about our morning routines beginning it with the statement: “Great question Candice!”
It is my unfortunate fate that there is a well known HGTV host named Candice Olson, and I, who can whip up a casserole in no time flat or create a fabulous dinner party at a moment’s notice, have never quite mastered the art of getting people’s names right. Shortly after my reply, the site's go to gal, "Miss Philly" sent me an email that read: “Out of curiosity, who’s Candice?”
I remember the moment in tunnel vision. Not only had I publicly called our celebrity host by the wrong name, it occurred to me I might have done the same thing in my video. In a panic I went back to watch, and sure enough, there I was, my spatula fabulously flashing by the stove while I gave a great big hello to “Candice” during the opening two seconds of the video, and because I insisted on posting so early almost 300 people had already viewed it.
I had no other recourse but to offer a public apology to our host on the posting boards and wrote her a heartfelt “I’m so sorry” praying the people of Kraft wouldn’t kick me out of the competition convinced to the core of my neurotic soul that I had completely blown my chances.
It bears mentioning that I have lived the greater part of my adult life in a state of “conspiracy theory” – fully believing that the truth isn’t only out there, it is lying in wait to gobble me up and spit me out.
However, the “Candice Affair,” as I now call it, was apparently not as earth shattering to the rest of the world as it was to me and aside from sharing a few good laughs with members of the community who were as into the contest as I was, life continued onward at The Real Women of Philadelphia as though I had never uttered the offending sentence.
By the following Monday, we were all in a new state of angst. The first week of the competition was over and we had already moved onto side dishes. I was crafting something clever to do with potatoes as the community waited for Wednesday - the day the first two finalists would be announced!
I wonder to this day if the site tracks its visitors because if this is the case, I was already establishing myself as a full on lunatic literally visiting the posting boards and my profile hundreds of times from Friday to the following Wednesday in the hopes my name was going to be the one in lights.
Wednesday morning. 7 am – nothing. 8 am – nothing. 8:30 am – a tip from Anna Olson, and I couldn’t wait anymore - I had to go to work. I drove to my office trying to unravel the puzzle... “If I was a finalist, surely I would know about it by now... unless... no...” and on it went so that by the time I got to the office I was a mess – which I couldn’t really share with anyone because,what was I going to say?
I sat down in my office, fired up my desk computer, and placed my laptop beside it. I would monitor the Real Women of Philadelphia website with the left side of my brain while going about my regularly scheduled business and was just in the middle of responding to a work related email when the post went up. The first two finalists were announced!!!!!!!
Slowly scrolling down the page, I hoped and prayed my name would be listed as appetizer finalist. This was it. Today was my day. It was all coming together. And then... Nothing. Two finalists were named and neither of them was me.
I would like to tell you that I was happy for the two women listed. That in the spirit of good sportsmanship I thought “Well done!” But unless running to the washroom to hide my disappointed tears and crying my mascara off because the world was apparently not ready for the Determined Dieter constituted a feeling of team spirit, I was not your girl.
It was black Wednesday for the second time in my life and I had to pick up the pieces of my appetizer shattered dreams, put on a happy face, and carry on as though nothing had happened.
This was, for sure, the last time I would ever enter a contest. Except...
There WERE still 14 more chances to win!
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