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The greatest cook in the world

One of the featured events in the 2012 Olympic Games in London and in all Olympic Games was the men's decathlon. That single event consists of a series of 10 competitions for all the athletes over a two-day period. On day one, the competitors face-off in the 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 meter dash. On the second day, the order of competition is 110-meter hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and 1500 meter run -- four running events, three throwing events and three jumping or vaulting events. The combination is an unbelievably challenging test of speed, strength, athleticism, endurance and will. The overall winner is always declared to be "The Greatest Athlete in the World." Americans Ashton Eaton and Tim Hardee finished first and second this year. To say the decathlon scoring system is quite complicated is to make a long story short.

If we all know who the worlds greatest athlete is, why shouldn't we know who the world's greatest cook is? Everybody doesn't have to participate in sports, but we all need to eat. Even in parts of the world where there is not enough to eat, skilled cooking is necessary -- maybe even more necessary than where food is plentiful.

Fine. We all seem to be in agreement so far. Accordingly, I am proposing the Olympics of Cooking. There will be as many categories as there are specialties, but the featured event will be the cooking decathlon -- each cook must compete in 10 categories over a two day period.

Competitive events on day one would be: loaf of bread, salad, ethnic meal, hot dish (casserole or covered dish) and stew. The second day's list is soup, lunch bucket combination, vegetarian meal (simply, no meat), meal under 1000 calories and desert.

A quick tie breaker, if necessary would be hasty pudding. Only one standard will apply to the pudding: taste. Proof of the pudding is in the taste.

By the way, I am recommending that the cooking competition be held in Hungary, for obvious reasons.

Judging will not be nearly as simple as in the athletic decathlon. After all, you either jump over a bar or not. Points will be awarded for originality, creativity, presentation and, of course, taste. There is nothing objective about any of these standards. Your taste is not the same as my taste. Some people don't like olives, some are overpowered by garlic, most people don't like sauerkraut and only Scandinavians eat pickled herring. In the soup category, the borscht crowd and the French onion sippers don't necessarily eat at the same table. For this reason, a panel of 30 judges from all over the world, all sworn to honesty, objectivity and non-favoritism would be the deciders. Keep in mind, the judges from China are probably going to have (honest) trouble with Hungarian goulash and judges from Mexico may not take readily to succi. Also, for that matter, where is the line between soups and stews? Not an easy decision. But with 30 honest judges, that will all even out.

The Olympics of Cooking, if promoted properly, could be bigger than 50 state fairs combined and maybe even bigger than the actual Olympics. Finding sponsors would be a cinch. Every producer of seasoning, herbs, food crops, processed food, livestock, cookbooks and anti-acids would line up to be sponsors. The opening ceremonies could feature mountains of mashed potatoes, rivers of gravy, moats of cranberries in water and gingerbread cottages (all artificial of course, so as not to waste real food). No cash prizes would be awarded -- only gold, silver and bronze medals. The winners would publish their recipes and live the rest of their lives off royalties and public appearances. In the food decathlon category, the grand winner -- the Greatest Cook in the World -- would be rich and famous worldwide forever by publishing the top 10 recipes in the world in a gold medal cookbook and by appearing on celebrity guest shows for the rest of his or her life.

When all the hoopla settled down -- and assuming there are no food fights or riots like big time soccer fan craziness, the closing ceremonies would be most serious. The profits (and they would be enormous) would go to feed the hungry and starving people of the developing nations around the world. Children -- come to the front of the line please. Sometimes, love is best expressed with meat, potatoes and vegetables.