They say a family divided against itself cannot stand. But that's not exactly true when it comes to wild game cooking.
One family from Decatur split into 2 teams, almost, but not quite, the girls vs. the guys. And both teams have done quite well over the years. They often find themselves competing against one another for the top spots when they go to the various Alabama Wildlife Federation cookoffs.
That was the case last Saturday night in Guntersville, when the 2 teams together had an impressive run and brought home lots of trophies.
The spinoff team, Dream Catchers, made up of Beth Raley, Kris Raley, Cameron Raley, Lori Cummings and Anita Cummings won the overall championship of the Guntersville Wild Game Cookoff. Their winning dish was "Friend Shrimp," a Bloody Mary that featured spicy shrimp and bacon.
Bracy Cummings Jr., also of Decatur, started the Lumbee Smokers game cooking team to compete in the Alabama Wildlife Federation cookoffs about 10 years ago. His team members today include his father Bracy Sr., Derrick Cummings and Tim Borden. Bracy Sr. is a Native American from North Carolina who came to Alabama to work in the defense industry and never left.
But traces of his North Carolina heritage can still be seen in his team's cooking, especially with the blackberry wine from North Carolina served with their dishes last weekend.
Anita Cummings, wife of Bracy Jr., and a member of the opposing Dream Catchers, explained how they ended up splitting into 2 teams.
"They came up with a new Pot Luck division about 4 years ago," she said. "You couldn't win the Pot Luck trophy if you were one of the main cooking teams. To get that trophy, we divided."
Pot Luck encompasses stews, soups and things of that nature and was not even a division at Guntersville last Saturday night.
Beth Raley said the inspiration for their winning dish was simple.
"I like Bloody Marys," she said.
Just how dominant were the 2 teams together last week?
In the Fish Division, Dream Catchers placed 1st with Friend Shrimp. Lumbee Smokers was second with Honey Garlic Salmon.
Then in the Game division, Lumbee Smokers won 1st with their White Tail Quesa while Dream Catchers was 3rd with The Game Ball.
Lumbee also finished third in the Fowl division with their "Turkey Duo" dish, a grilled turkey medallion served with a side of turkey soup and blackberry wine. (For what it's worth, the author was part of the panel of judges at the competition and honestly thought Turkey Duo was the best dish at the entire event, not that Friend Shrimp wasn't excellent too.)
It's not the first time Lumbee Smokers and the spinoff Dream Catchers have been neck and neck in a competition. At the Quad Cities competition last year, Lumbee Smokers finished 1st and Dream Catchers 2nd.
"A half-point separated the teams," Bracy Sr. said.
The overall champs from the various cookoffs held around the state end up going to the state championship cookoff at Alabama Wildlife Federation headquarters at Lanark in Millbrook in August. Both teams qualified last year.
Lumbee Smokers finished 2nd in the state cookoff and Dream Catchers was 7th.
Dream Catchers will now represent Guntersville in the state cookoff on Aug. 10. Lumbee Smokers has not yet qualified for state and there's some question whether they will. But they'll be going to state no matter what to support their sister team if nothing else.
It's a serious, but good-natured family feud. When Dream Catchers was called to the front of Civitan Park to accept an award last weekend, Lumbee Smokers was in the audience taking pictures. When Lumbee Smokers were called up, Dream Catchers was snapping the photos.
"We do have a lot of fun picking on each other when we cook," Anita said.
There was genuine glee on the part of the Dream Catchers members when they were called as the overall champs. There were high fives and squeals of delight. Even the members of the opposing Lumbee Smokers had to smile.
Here's the recap of all the winners from the Guntersville cookoff and their winning dishes:
1st – Dream Catchers, Friend Shrimp
2nd – Lumbee Smokers, Honey Garlic Salmon
3rd Place – La Familia, Jeff and Cass Purdum, Key Lime Fish Quesadillas
1st – Chalk Branch Hunting Club, Roy Hill, Chuck Cobb and Teresa Cobb, Quail with Mushroom Garlic Sauce
2nd – Spices Smokehouse, Tee Rice, John Hudgens and Tim Wynn, Caribbean Duck Roll Up
3rd – Lumbee Smokers, Turkey Duo.
1st – Lumbee Smokers, White Tail Quesa
2nd – La Familia, Jeff and Cass Purdum, Deer Chozizo Street Taco
3rd – Dream Catchers, The Game Ball.
Best Presentation – Chalk Branch Hunting Club
Best Presentation Runner-Up – Dream Catchers
Alabama Army National Guard People’s Choice Award – Spices Smokehouse.
This was the 22nd year for the Guntersville cookoff. The late Robert Thornton, sportsman, athlete, Army veteran and real estate man, started the event. His sons Mark Thornton and Leif Thornton and Bill Collins Jr. are the organizers who have kept it going.