Not winning hurts

I alluded to the fact I entered a contest to win a trip to Italy in a previous post. I am here to vent and say I was not chosen. I will not say I lost because that would imply I am a loser which I am not. There were many entries and I was judged based on my submitted recipe, below, my story behind the recipe and the reason I felt I should be chosen for the trip. The judges were looking for recipes and stories that were not ordinary yet the winner in the category I entered was for an everyday kind of food- a Meyer Lemon Bundt cake. The story is interesting but doesn’t seem “pilgrimage” in nature. I’m not being a sore loser just trying to wrap my head around what the criteria for judging was when they originally posted the contest and what was posted about the judging when listing the winners. It’s very contradictory to me.


My Recipe:

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Beef Braciole’ with Marinara Sauce


6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/3 cup bread crumbs

1-2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced in thin slivers

2-3 slices of top round steak, pounded thin

1 cup dry red wine

1-28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

toothpicks or cotton kitchen string



Cook bacon in a large skillet till crisp; remove to a paper-towel lined plate to cool.

Leave bacon drippings in the pan and set aside to cool.

Mix bacon with the cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic and enough olive oil to moisten the mixture.

The measurements do not need to be precise but equally balanced in taste.

Add a bit of coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Cover each piece of beef with plastic wrap and pound out each one so it’s almost paper-thin.

Spoon the filling onto the beef. Roll, cigar-style, each piece of beef, keeping the filling in by tucking it in at the edges as you roll.

Secure the ends and middle with toothpicks or wrap with kitchen string and tie.

Reheat the bacon drippings on medium heat and slowly brown the rolls on all sides.

Add the wine and allow almost all of it to evaporate.

Add the can of tomatoes and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring often and turning the braciole’.

In the last few minutes, add the torn basil leaves.

Alternatively, the braciole’ can be added to a larger pot of sauce and simmered for several hours.

Serve with a salad and some thick yummy bread to enjoy the sauce for an authentic dish. 

In the end I think I would much rather go to Italy with my husband so we can experience the traveling together. The trip would have been this June and I would have had to go alone. I guess it was not meant to be and I can live with it but I am hurting a little right now. Oh well, life goes on. Here is my complete entry to the contest, sponsored by World Nomads Travel Insurance. You can Google them and read about the winners under the Scholarships. I won’t link to them as I said I feel they were contradictory in their judging and wording. I wrote them about it and maybe they will reply.

As a child my family enjoyed the traditional Sunday dinner with my Italian grandparents. The aroma of the sauce, cooked with grandpa’s homegrown tomatoes and herbs, permeated their home. We loved the fresh pasta hanging from broomsticks to dry. We would eat the pieces that dropped off. My childhood was filled with the rich tradition of family dinners.

I remember eating braciole’ twice a year at Christmas and Easter. Forget turkey and ham, we ate this flavorful beef dish prepared using their Molise regional recipe for the filling along with the homemade pasta, sauce and meatballs. My grandparents were not rich, by monetary standards, a slice or two of the braciole’ was all we enjoyed, but that made it all the more appreciated. My grandparents both passed away the year I turned thirteen and the dinners ended. Our family life changed and the loss was deeply felt.

When I was in my twenties my father began the tradition once again with our family, which by now included grandchildren of his own. My father was a bit more situated in life so we would all get several slices of braciole’ at the holiday dinners. I was living with my father at the time and joined him in the kitchen to learn the “secrets” of how the traditional dishes were prepared. We never wrote down a recipe, so all I learned was simply remembered. In 2004 my father passed away and again the family dinners ended.

I was in my forties when I became a grandma and I realized I wanted my grandchildren to walk into my home smelling the aroma of sauce cooking and feel the love and warmth of family just as I did so long ago. I decided to learn the history behind the regional cooking my grandparents and father made, which included braciole’. Twice a year when I make braciole’ for my own family, each person has their own piece of braciole’ instead of a slice or two. We’ve come a long way from my grandparents’ poor immigrant status but in our hearts we remain true to the Italian ways of food and family.

Since I began blogging in 2009 about my journey into the foods of my immigrant Italian grandparents, I have felt like a pilgrim, seeking a place to find a sense of belonging. Without the benefit of my grandparents or father any longer, I have had to find my own information via the internet and books. Traveling to Italy is a natural piece of my journey that I dream about often. I imagine the feeling of “home” I would experience as I walk the paths my ancestors walked. I might not be going to the village they were from, but being in Italy will be enough. I want to have the adventure of the culture, foods, sights and sounds of the loving Italians. I want to work side by side with people who still do their own cooking the old-fashioned way, by hand, and with tender loving care. Seeing the picturesque towns of the regions which have been chosen for the winners, in person, will be a rich and rewarding experience. A trip to Italy, such as you are offering, will meet the deep longing of my soul as it reaches down to my Italian roots and helps fulfill a part of my journey. I would be in a state of awe throughout my entire trip. As a food blogger and cooking instructor, I will joyfully have my trip filmed, and document each step of my experiences along the way to be shared with the World Nomad community. Spending a day in Italy, visiting around the dinner table with family would be one of the best days of my life, a week would be a glorious life-affirming adventure. 


6 thoughts on “Not winning hurts

  1. I love braciole, and I have printed your recipe for future use. You are a winner in MY book! And, I am praying that you get to Italy sooner than later….

    • Thank you! And me to on the praying to getting there sooner rather than later. Since I started my part-time job, I’ve been able to save quite a bit of money. I have a goal and I will make it!

  2. One thing I have learned about contests ( Baking, Cake decorating, Art…) is that its always a shot in the dark. Unless you personally know the judges and know their style, taste pallets, etc. contests can go any way. I have been in contests where my entry was thought by many in the contest that I was a shoe in only to never have placed at all. And then there are the contests I have entered where I saw everyone else’s entry and thought I didnt have a chance and won best of show or the top prize. It can be frustrating, but never let it affect how you view yourself 🙂

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