Blue ribbon friends

Nobody bakes like my grandmas. They are, from my admittedly biased perspective, the very best cooks, the best bakers, the best possible teachers of kitchen crafts. So when I walked into the Education Building at the NC State Fair today to drop off my submissions to the pecan recipe contest, I took one look at the competition and had a good sense of how the ribbon ceremony was going to play out. After all, I think I’ve got a long way to go before I can rival anyone with my grandma’s experience and expertise in inventing – or executing – a recipe.

So there were no ribbons for me today. But this contest meant more to me than a blue ribbon or some prize money. I had the chance to meet and talk to most of the farmers at my local farmers market. I learned how enthusiastic they are about supporting each other, about eating locally, about the foods they grow and prepare. I tried honeys and cheeses and flours I might never have otherwise tried, and I learned to bake with them, too. I wrote my very first recipe, and then I wrote a second, and neither one was perfect…but I learned something new, met some great new folks within my own community, and had a lot of fun. Perhaps the most fun was the taste test with my classmates – I loved how supportive they all were, and the moment when one of my classmates announced that the pie tasted exactly like fall. When your purpose is to make a pie with seasonal local ingredients, that’s everything you want to hear.

I almost didn’t make it to the fair at all. Last night, just before I started to prepare the recipes, I realized I had no way to get there. All of this planning the food had somehow eclipsed planning for transportation. My husband would have the car, and had to work. The fair is almost an hour from my home, and I couldn’t find a bus that could get me, and all the prepared food, there early enough to make the deadline. I was crushed. All this preparation and excitement, and it was going to come to naught. So I did what anyone would do. I cried. Then I called my best friend, in the middle of the night, and told her I was having a pie emergency, and needed a super-early-in-the-morning ride to the fair. She didn’t just drive me. She was afraid she’d oversleep, so she stayed up all night to make sure she got to my house on time. And she brought me breakfast, stayed with me all day at the fair, and helped me brainstorm recipe ideas for next year. She’s worth every blue ribbon in the world to me, and this day was wonderful because of her. We met up with some friends from Club Nova (the awesome community where I volunteer) at the fair, too. They ate all the remaining cupcakes and told me they were delicious, rode the Ferris Wheel with me and made me laugh. It was a beautiful fall day, and I enjoyed all of it immensely.

I might not have won a blue ribbon with my recipes, but I definitely have blue ribbon friends. This was the kind of day that reminds me how blessed I really am. And I’ve already got a great idea for next year’s bake off!

The fair itself is beautiful, too:

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