Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in Biddermouth on Sea without the annual Mince Pie eating competition. Those of you in the know will remember that last year our very own Karen Braithwaite only just managed to clinch the title after seeing off some stiff competition. Of course there was a steward’s enquiry at the end but the rule book clearly states… ‘If both parties have consumed an equal number of pies it’s the last one to be sick who is declared the winner…’
So although it’s not exactly a time trial it did mean our Karen won fair and square by a margin of under a minute.
However this year it was touch and go as to whether we would have a competition at all. According to the local council promoting binge eating, even for fun, sends out a very poor message to anybody suffering from an eating disorder. They have even slapped a by-law on Sanjay Patel’s ‘All You Can Eat Curry Garden’ that makes it illegal to allow people to visit the buffet more than three times. That in itself is an odd stance to take when you consider they are the same people that don’t see anything wrong in allowing the pubs and supermarkets to tempt alcoholics twenty four seven or for the local Arcade having gaming machines that can swallow a gambling addicts entire week’s wages in one go. Thankfully common sense prevailed despite Sylvia Protheroe’s slimming club organising a petition.
‘It sets a very bad example to my ladies,’ she said when we couldn’t get away from her in the supermarket. ‘Some of them really struggle to stay under eight stone.’
Fortunately she had an under-eater’s class at eleven o’clock and beat a hasty retreat towards the checkout to pay for her bag of beansprouts and some pumpkin seeds. Had she stayed then no doubt we’d have heard the age old story of how she was dropped from the Royal Ballet for eating a cough drop.
Still that didn’t stop her and some of her ladies turning up on the day to make their feelings clear about the contest. Not that they formed much of a protest as most of them were too weak to hold their placards up for long, even when they tried sharing one between two.
‘It’s not as if any of them actually live in the town,’ said Vera, which was true as most of them were from the nearby gated village of Abbots Sepsis where they’d already forced the local shop to close down and be replaced by a very expensive boutique.
‘And at least this year’s finalists are both from Biddermouth on Sea,’ added Lila, ‘although I think Karen may well have a fight on her hands this time round as I hear June Elliot’s been practising with whole Cornish Pasties.’
‘If it is June,’ replied Vera. ‘Those Elliot girls all look alike especially from behind. And even head on they all look like their brother Michael.’
Lila said she thought he had a moustache.
Vera just shrugged and said, ‘so’?
Of course when it came to defending her title Karen Braithwaite was no slouch. She’d devoted the whole of November to a regular morning regime of four Sacher Tortes followed by a light evening’s jog through two dozen chocolate eclairs moving up to thirty six at the weekends. Once she hit December her husband and personal trainer Derwent had her stabilising her digestive juices with three cartons of Chow Mein interspersed with a raspberry blancmange followed by a forty eight hour fast for the two days before the competition. To say that Karen looked fighting fit was an understatement.
That said June Elliot, or it could well have been Marion or Mandy, looked in pretty good form too as they both took their seats opposite each other and gamely shook hands.
Then the referee blew his whistle, Sylvia’s ladies started chanting and the gloves, as they say, were well and truly off.
Derwent’s forty eight hour fast paid dividends in the early stages with June Elliot soon trailing ten pies behind a hungry Karen. When she extended her lead to twelve the Elliot camp protested only to be quickly over-ruled. Obviously Derwent had done his research well. There was nothing in the rule book about not using two hands.
There was also nothing about ‘two at a time’ either, a tactic which soon allowed June to draw level then go three up before she got a yellow card for belching. At that point we all stepped back. Just in case… Although this year Beattie had suggested the wise precaution of standing upwind of the competitors. Last year we got there late and hadn’t been so lucky. Neither had our rain macs. I have no idea what they put in the mincemeat but even after three trips to the dry cleaners Lila’s is still only fit for wearing on her allotment. But then she would insist on standing in front of everybody.
Clearly a diet of pasties and Chow Mein plus the benefits of elasticated waistbands were paying off as Karen’s long standing record of one hundred and twenty one pies was soon easily passed and the finalists found themselves neck and neck at one hundred and thirty and still matching each other chew for chew. Then it happened. One of those things that people often claim to be the hand of God although some may simply call it Fate. But that didn’t stop the Elliot’s being labelled ‘foul-mouthed’ when June’s chair suddenly gave way beneath her with a resounding crack. She went down hard and at least twenty of the one hundred and thirty pies came up just as violently.
Of course Karen could have gone on to much greater things, but she is nothing if not gracious in victory. She merely made her point by finishing pie one hundred and thirty one with a lady-like flourish, touched up her lipstick and raised her trophy aloft for the waiting photographers.
To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’, ‘A Festive Falling Out’ and ‘Turkey And All The Trimmings’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE
All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2016