Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You Have to Play To Win

The County Fair is here right now - right down the street from us, as a matter of fact, at the airport. I love the fair. I still get hoppy innards when I see it at night all lit up. I love the chickens and ducks and rabbits and llamas. I love the lights. I love the seedy, jaded barkers and the ridiculous games you'll never win, and the perfectly awful filth-covered toys they grudgingly give away as "prizes". I love the smell of the nasty food they serve (although to be fair, we did see the pizza people hand tossing crust, so how bad can the pizza be? I do hope they washed their hands). I love to gawk at the prize-winning art projects that look like something off And I love, love, love the rides! Well, most of them. Well... some of them. OK, OK, a few of them.  (I'm keeping honest here because Liz witnessed some balking.)

So yeah, I love the fair. But I've never even considered competing in any food contests out there. Never occurred to me. Friday, when they were setting up, my buddy Liz posted on Facebook and Twitter about the baked goods competition, urging people to enter. I asked her a couple of questions about it, and she basically responded with "Do it! Do it! DO IT!!" I had to have something entered by Saturday morning at 11:00. I hadn't decided when I went to bed Friday night - to be honest, I didn't give it a lot of thought, other than that if I entered, I might just enter apple squares. Saturday morning, I got up and thought, "What the hell? I have a couple of hours, we need to get out and run errands, and it's not exactly out of the way." So I baked a batch of apple squares and turned them in to the entry table at the fairgrounds at 10:50 AM and got my number - 44- Apple Squares.

We ran errands, and 11:00 (the judging time) came and went. All day, no phone call. So naturally, I assumed I got nothing. I mean, they had my phone number. Surely they'd call. The prize money alone would be worth notifying the winners about! (THREE DOLLARS!!) Well, pooh. Moving along. I didn't really think about it again. Into the office wastebasket went my ticket stub.

Then yesterday, Liz posted again and said "Hey, anyone wanna go to dinner and the fair tonight? I want to check out some friends' baked goods." Ooo! A chance to hit the fairway! I married a man whose attitude about the fair is  County Fair = Filth, Squalor, and People Who Crawled Out From Under Rocks. (You know the people I'm talking about. I'm not saying you and me, here.) I'd assumed my odds of getting to go get flung around like the spin cycle in our washer were slim to none. As it happened, my Pootie Pie had a meeting anyway, so I was at loose ends. I jumped at the chance.

Liz picked me up and I asked her about who she knew who had won. She had a couple of other friends who had entered in other categories and they'd won. Well, there went my last hopes. If they knew they'd gotten something, obviously I didn't win doodly-squat. My best secret hope was that the judges hadn't bitten into my apple squares, made a horrible face, and quietly spit it out under the table for the carnival rodentia to scavenge later.

I'll let Liz write about dinner. It will be in her column in the Star-News. I don't want to steal her thunder. (That's a little joke for you, Liz. Holla!)

We got to the fair and went through the ag tent looking for the baked goods and couldn't find them. We saw the pickled stuff, the art projects, the produce, the flowers, the houseplants - basically everything except the baked goods. So we wandered over to livestock and checked out the chickens and ducks and bunnies and llammas.
This is an inside joke for my brother. Liz kept telling me to get closer. You know, Llamas look a lot bigger close up. And then I remembered that thing about how they spit on you when they don't like you. I don't think they llooked much llike they lliked me. Do you?

Since we'd been unsuccessful at finding the baked goods, we asked. Turns out, the ribbons were on a board in the ag tent. We'd missed it. I think the judges polished off all the sweets. So we went back over, found the board, and then I saw it. (Insert sound of singing angels here.)

I looked at these two ribbons and the little tag up there that said (!) 44 Apple Squares. In case you can't read that, (ahem) it says "Best of Show"

I was a little excited, so Liz would have to verify, but I think I may have dropped the F-bomb. Twice. OK, maybe three times.

As you can see, I am pleased. Thank goodness Liz had her camera on her, because I totally would have gone back out to the car, gotten mine, and had to pay another sixteen bucks to get back in.

This is me on the phone with the President when he found out I won.

 So my easy little apple square recipe won Best of Show. Wow. This is actually an honest-to-goodness heirloom recipe. It was given to my grandmother by a dear friend of hers, Alma Jean Kopert, who had gotten it from her mother-in-law. Both Grandmother and Mom used to make them when I was growing up, and I loved them. And they are ridiculously easy. My mom said that when they were kids, they'd be thrilled when the Koperts would come back from a visit to Little Rock, because they would always have Mrs. Kopert's apple squares with them.

I served these one night to our friends Marc and Sara, who have Marc's on Market.  You've heard of them a time or two on here. Marc raved about the apple squares, and liked them so much, he asked for the recipe. (I honestly can't imagine any higher praise than a professional chef asking for a recipe from me.) He changed the apples to strawberries for the Top Chef Competition here in Wilmington and won that. The newspaper article quoted one of the judges as saying it was the dessert that pushed Marc over the top. I think they have them on the menu at the restaurant from time to time.

Obviously, I'm pretty stoked about winning my Major Award. Especially the three dollars! When I got home, I fished my ticket stub out of the wastepaper basket, so I can claim my ribbons. I got big plans for those bad boys.

I owe Liz for pushing me to enter. I never would have done it on my own. Maybe I'll give her my three dollars. Except my dad already claimed it. When I talked to him last night, he said "Andie, I told you when you grew up to go out and make me proud. Now you have. Send me that three dollars."

Actually, I think I'll send the three dollars to Alma Jean, along with a picture of my ribbons.

So lesson learned: You have to play to win, people. You have to play to win.

For those of you falling asleep and thinking "Good godamighty, woman! Cut to the chase! Where is the RECIPE???" Here you go. You can mail me three dollars.

Apple Squares

Truly these could NOT be easier and obviously they pack a huge reward. (Cash prizes up to THREE DOLLARS!!)

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup apple, peeled and large dice (Granny Smith or other tart apple)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Mix together dry ingredients, then add apples and toss to coat. Add melted butter and egg and stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Bake in a square brownie pan for 45 - 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. These are awesome served warm with vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce.


Michaela said...

Yay & Congrats!!! Loved reading the story too and the only thing I wish I had right now is one of your apple squares!
Michaela @finecooking

Melissa said...

Wow - I feel so honored - I have actually eaten those prize-winning apple squares! And yes - they definitely deserve the ribbon. Way to go Andie!