Every year, local muffin enthusiasts from all over Utah showcase their baked goodies to the Governor (along with a select panel of judges) and, every year, one lucky baker is awarded a $150 prize and eternal respect from the muffin community and the governor himself. It's actually a pretty big deal.
I understand that, to some, a Gary Herbert muffin competition may sound painfully boring. But, this annual event has existed for more than a decade, and as I found out that evening, the people of Utah don't mess around when it comes to muffin tasting -- and Gov. Herbert is no exception. The man is a big softy when it comes to a delicious muffin.
This love for baked goods should come as no surprise. After all, Gary has a bit of a reputation for a having an insatiable sweet tooth. He did say to me once at his Christmas party, “Make sure you head upstairs after this, that’s where all the chocolate yum yums are,” while wiggling his fingers in front of his face. So, it wasn't much of a shocker to find out he hosts a bake-off, where he eats 15 muffins in front of a crowd of potential voters. All right, here's the footage:
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The whole thing was like watching a weird, interactive art piece, where viewers observe the governor from a safe distance as he cuts a muffin in half, butters each side, breaks off a piece with a spoon, slowly guides a chunk of blueberry muffin into his mouth and methodically licks his fingers for at least 30 seconds. It's bizarrely fantastic.
Let's be honest, the honor of having the governor of Utah pick a muffin you made from scratch as the best is probably pretty sweet. But for me, this whole experience was less awe-inspiring than it was educational. I learned more about the governor eating muffins that evening than from anything I've every read in the news or from our conversations via Twitter. This might have something to do with the fact that he never responds to any of my tweets.
Though Gary was the main event, there was a muffin emcee who pulled off an incredible Buck Laughlin (a la the film Best In Show) and successfully filled dead air with muffin history, muffin jokes and not-so-carefully crafted muffin sexual innuendos. “I love a naughty, naughty muffin” and “You know, I had a muffin once -- it was sorta like cocaine.”
After two hours of nonstop muffin action, I was having the same realization, over and over again, “Damn, Gary loves muffins. I love muffins. What am I doing here?" But, I had to remind myself how difficult it must be to eat nothing but muffins for two hours straight. Plus, if you've ever eaten an entire bag of those little Hostess mini-muffins, you know as well as I do what Gary has in store the next morning.
This is probably why I respect the hell out of Gov. Herbert. The man punishes his body with high-calorie yum-yums and he does it without any regard for his body or well-being. He does it for the love. Though I don't agree with most, or any, of his political decisions, the fact he goes out of his way to celebrate the best muffin bakers this state has to offer only proves that this man loves his damned snacks. Like I said before, Gary is all about the muffins -- he's a hardcore muffin man, and that's a platform I can get behind.
Photos and video by Mike Fuchs