Exhibitor Marjorie Anderson has been entering her baking and crafts in the Coffee County Fair for the last 25 years.
Her entries range from baked goodies like pie and brownies to sewn items, even flower arrangements.
“I just love the fair. This part of the fair is important as a community gathering. We meet friends. It’s good for a community to have this competitiveness,” Anderson said.
“We laugh about it; we talk about it. It’s good people who come over here and enter,” she said. And it’s a learning opportunity, Anderson added.
Anderson’s fudge, brownies, pound cake, banana bread and gingerbread all won first place ribbons this year.
Experience dictates what she enters. That and what she feels she bakes best.
“Over the years, I figured out which things hold up to bring to the fair, what I do well and what I’ve brought that have won before,” she said.
“The secret is have good recipes,” Anderson confides.
Anderson’s prizewinning recipes come from a variety of sources. She likes “Southern Living” recipes, though some have been collected from friends and others are ones that Anderson has developed to meet her own tastes.
“Experience is one of the best teachers,” Anderson said.
Her children were in 4H, and as a presenter to the groups, Anderson learned a lot of the dos and don’ts of turning out a good product. She would also submit items to the UT Extension FCE dairy food competition and won third at state level.
“Baking has just been a part of my life with my children,” Anderson said.
Scoring the entries is more than taster’s choice.
At times a fair judge herself, Anderson explained that judges first cut the products to examine the texture of the item. Cakes for instance shouldn’t have holes in them. Pound cakes should be firm, while layer cakes should be soft, but not full of holes.
Presentation is important, not absolute.
Judges take the tiniest taste of the products to make sure the flavors have blended well — not too salty and the baking powder or soda don’t stand out.
“They make sure…it tastes like what it’s supposed to be. There are a lot of criteria,” she said.
Sometimes the difference between the winner and runners up can be small things. Anderson pointed out that this product might look prettier presentation wise, and still come in due to texture or flavor.
She said that once a friend entered cookies using the same recipe as the ones as her winning ones. Sometimes it’s the nuance of how a cook bakes, that can mean a blue ribbon or a runner up.
Anderson said that of the desserts she brought this year, the lemon pound cake is probably her personal favorite.
“It’s really tasty,” she confessed.