Oh.. my... goodness!
So many choices, so little time
by Lynne Gilfus | September 9, 2003
Last Saturday, as the entries arrived for the annual Voyageur Press Wild Rice and Corn Cooking Contest, we all started realizing how big the contest had become. Last year, there were a total of, perhaps a dozen dishes total, and they nearly all fit on one table. This year, when all of the dishes were present and accounted for, the TWO tables were something to behold.. I can't help wondering if, had we listened closely enough, we would have heard a bit of groaning from the furniture.
Another phenomenon presented itself Saturday as well. As covers were lifted and set aside, it was a bit like watching a room full of debutantes revealing their special frilly formals on prom night. The entries were all dressed up for the occasion - colors, textures, special dishes, flowers, perfume - and it was almost a shame to disturb the appearance…
NOT! So, we four intrepid judges dug in. Evelyn Swedberg, Voyageur Press columnist and cook extraordinaire, Howie Pickles, owner and Chef of the Fireside Restaurant, Cromwell Mayor Dick Hutah, gourmand and cranberry lover, and I moved slowly around the tables eating small samples of each wild rice or corn dish, and making rapid notes as we went. It was a gargantuan task, but someone had to do it.
When we finally reached the end of our task, it was clear that this competition was like none other in the history of this contest. We had an abundance of entries - enough to take us nearly an hour to review. The entries were all professionally presented. The flavors and aromas were a slice of heaven come down to earth. We were now required to score the entries based on appearance, flavor and texture. I have three words for you:
OH… MY… GOODNESS!
Fortunately for us, nothing was dependent on arithmetic skills - someone else tallied everything up and declared the high scores. Personally, by the time I had assigned a score to every dish, my brain was so dulled by the quantity of great food that all I could think was how nice a nap would feel about then.
So, the winners were declared:
First Place (Tie) - Gloria Geving (Corn Relish) and Becky Ekelund (Creamy Corn Chowder with Egg Noodles)
Third Place - Don Geving (Crab Corn Enchilada Casserole)
Honorable Mention - Judy Thomas - Apple Cheddar Corn Muffins
Wild Rice Dishes
First Place - Dorothy Miller (Wild Rice Pudding with Brandy Sauce)
Second Place - Esther Gauthier (Wild Rice Fajita Casserole)
Third Place - Irene Kidd (Wild Rice and Shrimp with Coconut Citrus Dressing)
Honorable Mention - Gloria Geving (Wild Rice Fruit Salad)
So, the torch was passed from Bernis Geving to others, and we thank her for setting a great example for everyone to follow.
This year's entrants included four "guys", one of whom took a prize home. Having tasted every dish, I can tell you the guys, like everyone else, outdid themselves with a TaterTot and corn casserole, wild rice and corn soup, and a Northwoods version of a Cajun gumbo. Outstanding, guys, and we'll look forward to seeing you all again next year - and bring your friends.
When the winners were announced, the reactions were a mixed bag. Some tried to contain themselves, and some just let it all hang out. One winner was moved to tears, prompting hugs from her friends, which brought more tears. It was a GREAT day for everyone.
So, another year is done, and we're eager to see what happens next year. A bit of advice for our readers: start practicing now, and get your recipes down to a formula. If this year is any indication of the quality of the Chefs, the heat will be on again next year. Personally, I'll be working out, getting my fork hand and arm into the best shape possible, and I'll be honing my tasting skills as well as my eye for Pretty Food. I have to say, if next year's competitors are as good as this year, I may have to book a week's vacation to rest up afterward!
This article first appeared in the September 9, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.