Grape Balls of Fire
At some point during the 4 years I lived in Seattle I came across the Seattle Italian Festival and, more specifically, the Grape Stomping competition. For reasons long forgotten I never managed to remember or be in the right place at the right time an I never took part. Eventually I moved away from Seattle to the suburbs and forgot it even more. Then this year for some reason I managed to remembered to enter in time and the weekend happened to be free so myself, Steve and J headed down to Seattle Center on Saturday.
The rules are pretty simple - 20lbs of grapes in a barrel - 3 people squishing for 1 minute each and then 1 minute to 'assist' the juice down the tube into the collecting container. 3 teams on stage at a time competing for the prize. You would think with all the marathons and triathlons under my belt 1 minute of squishing would be child's play. Well it wasn't - I went off far too fast and was in danger of having to stop and rest when they started my 10 second countdown. I think by the time I was done the barrel was 70% juice and after J was through poor Steve was searching for the last few grapes to squish. For the final minute we lucked into what appeared to be a very optimum technique (based on watching people who went after us). J went below the stage and shook the tube (which blocks very easily), Steve lifted the barrel and I stuck both arms in past my elbows and 'swirled'. Initially I tried swirling the solid matter out of the way in the hope that it would drain faster but there really was no way to keep the skins and other gunk out of the tube. So I resorted to using pressure to force stuff down the tube and relied on J to unblock it. This worked very well until I knocked the tube out of the barrel.
At the end each team had to hold up their juice for the audience to decide the winner. The emcee tried to convince everyone that it was close but judging by the cheer that went up we were way ahead. It probably didn't hurt that we were also the messiest and I used the charm of my British accent to make all the little old ladies vote for me. We got a nice bottle of wine each which will help fill my new present to myself that should arrive this week.