Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Episode 5- Family!

     For our first challenge we are taken to a huge ugly industrial building that sits right at the edge of the fjord.  Obviously, their zoning does not consider aesthetics.  I presume this factory is a major employer.  It turns out to be a Pizza factory - yes - lets go for cultural dissonance - frozen pizza is terribly popular in Norway.  We are given a taste and, in my opinion, its really bad frozen pizza!!
  
     We are told our teams and I think this is the first time our two most competitive guys, Todd and Austin, are on different teams. This might be interesting! The challenge is to design and make a pizza which will be judged by locals.  Each team has a table of ingredients, including the strange giant crackers that are the pizza crusts. A gas oven is perched at the edge of the fjord, waiting for our pies.  After not as much waiting as usual, we put on our hair nets...
      My team has Todd, Alf, Jessica and me.  We check the ingredients provided and quickly decide on a surf and turf theme. I think we work well together, decisions get made, the pizzas come together, there is a bit of hesitation about Jessica's idea of sour cream spooned on at the end, but I agree its interesting and the others acquiesce. Both teams finish making four of the same pizza - enough to feed 60+ judges. We put them in the oven.
     Its then that we notice that the majority of the crowd that has formed to "judge" the pizzas are young enough that I am sure they are skipping school.  We start to worry. If we had know we were cooking for teens, we might have designed a different pizza. Ours has a "Rosemal design of red and yellow peppers" - not exactly what a hungry teen cares about or even notices. Actually, if we think about how much we disliked the Grandiose we tried, we might have designed a different pizza...
    We wait for the pizzas to cook and then, hear a yell - "the pizzas!"  The half cooked pizzas are sliding down the back of the oven. It seems the oven is not level and has been vibrating - enough to shake the pies at the top to the back of the rack and down....  We scramble to salvage them and find that the three that have fallen belong to our team - we have one left.  We are in shock.  The directors huddle and decide to send most of the crowd home. They choose a small group to judge - It will be a one-on-one pizza contest!  Each vote will mean a lot.
     There are three catagories, Creativity, Looks and Taste.We win on Creativity, but not on the others and so we loose this challenge. This is the not the first time I see the ugly side of competition as a team tries to accept a loss, but this time it is very clear.  Austin - the male model - has a bevy of young Norwegians clustered around him and our team mutters about the impartiality of the "judges".  Even though we are in a beautiful place, it does not feel good.
     The theme for this week is "Norwegian daily life" so we are asked to pack one bag and each team is brought to the driveway of a home in Stranda.  A local Norwegian family has volunteered to have us stay in their home for a few nights.  Having been a host for many exchange students, I know how much of an awkward  disruption foreign visitors can be. But it can also be a wonderful bridging of cultures and that seemed to be how our hosts welcomed us. Even with cameras following.

    Vebjorn and Merete Skog and their children Tore Andre and Hanne make me feel at home - which makes me think of my home and husband and children. It is wonderful and painful at the same time.  We cook dinner with cameras recording and it feels strange to be in a house instead of a hotel. Tore Andre reminds me so much of my son, it hurts.  I find I missed cooking and I even enjoy doing the dishes. I also find myself trying not to like their dog too much as it reminds me of own dog.  I miss home!



 We watch some television - Tore Andre has seen Alf on another Norwegian show and we watch as Alf leads an offering to a God.   The Skogs are lovely and a bit nervous. I know I can make a fool of myself on camera, yet it will barely be seen in the USA, but this is a small town. They are stepping out of their comfort zone and I appreciate that.  I expect to see Tore Andre or Hanne on my doorstep someday and they will be more than welcome!!





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