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HUCKABY: Nothing better than a return engagement

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

There is only one thing I enjoy and appreciate more than getting invited to speak. That is getting invited “back” to speak, because when I get invited back that means that the folks liked me the first time. Or that they were desperate and couldn’t get anybody else, but I’m going with the first option. It is better for my ego.

Last year I was invited to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the Gwinnett Daily Post-sponsored Taste of Home Cooking Show. Technically that wasn't so much a speaking engagement as it was an opportunity to stand onstage in front of about a thousand people -- mostly women -- and read a script, but still ... it was fun and I got to tell a joke or two and women happen to make up my favorite 50 percent of the population.

Plus the Taste of Home extravaganza was quite an event. Honesty compels me to admit that I didn't have any idea what to expect when I accepted the invitation, but the affair would have far exceeded my expectations, had I had any. There were booths with all sorts of craft and kitchen accouterments for purchase and between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. they were giving out door prizes every time you turned around -- and I mean really nice door prizes. Plus there were all sorts of chances to purchase everything from theater tickets to kitchen gadgets.

I even had a table of my own and was able to greet people and sell my books. Cool.

Then, at about 7, the main event began. Everybody was ushered into this big room and there was a fancy stage at the front of the room. And up on that stage they had a giant kitchen set up, with stove-tops and ovens and refrigerators and I don't know what all. There was a preparation counter with bright lights and cameras suspended over it and big screens everywhere. I still didn't fully understand what a treat I was in for but I felt like I was on the set of the Justin Wilson Show or something. (If you don't remember Justin Wilson, ask an old person.)

Anyway, that's when I started reading my script and about that time the star of the show, Michelle Roberts, came out onstage in a fancy chef's hat and white apron and she started showing everybody how to cook these wonderful dishes -- and when I say wonderful, I mean wonderful. She went step by step and made things look so simple that just about anybody could follow what she was doing. This wasn't her first rodeo, understand. She had done this a time or two before. I was impressed, and impressing me isn't an easy thing to do. I saw Elvis in person once, understand.

And in between steps was when I would stand up and tell about the sponsors and -- this is the good part -- give away stuff. I must have given away almost a hundred prizes, and I mean good prizes! There were show tickets and appliances and food processors and aprons and I don't know what all!

That's how the night went. Michelle would demonstrate a dish and share a few tricks of the trade and I would give out a few prizes and then she would cook another dish and I would give out some more prizes -- she must have done about 10 fancy dishes in all. And at the end of the evening she gave away all of the delectable food she had prepared -- including the fancy serving dishes they came in.

Now I told you all of that to tell you this. It's time for the Taste of Home Cooking Show again -- and I have been invited back. This Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Convention Center at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, we are going to do it all again.

This time I will know what to expect and will have my own booth with several of my books, including my brand new cookbook, "Second Helpings; The Southern Eatin' Cookbook." It has over 200 of my own recipes, along with funny stories about why we Southerners eat like we do. I can even sign my name and write a personal note in them.

And there will be more vendors than you can shake a stick at and more great prizes and, best of all, another great night of cooking instruction with even more delectable dishes and more door prizes. And they will be giving away the food again and sending everybody home with a big bag of goodies.

And unlike me, you don't need an invitation to be there. All you need is a ticket, and to find out how to get one of those you can visit tasteofhomecookingschool.com.

Y'all come. I'd love to see you, and if enough people show up, I might even get invited back.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.