Animals quote

"Animals give their lives to feed us, so it's on us to eat every part of them. It's a form of respect, and it's a better way to live than just treating meat as a disposable commodity." —Seamus Mullen, Chef


Competitive baking

The pie baked up beautifully, with the aroma of lavender and cardamom settling in throughout the condo Friday evening. Saturday morning, we headed out nice and early to make it down to the farmers' market (this week forsaking our much beloved Burlington County Farmers' Market) so we could park and take the pie immediately to the judging tent.

According to the e-mail I had received, there were 3 categories, with $50 market gift certificates going out for the following:
  • Best peach pie—consisting of peaches as the only fruit used
  • Best not-just-peach pie—consisting of peaches plus other creative fruit or ingredient combination
  • Best presentation—the most photogenic pie
We thought the star pseudo-lattice but all-punk sugar-sprinkled top crust could snag us the prize for best presentation, but I honestly didn't know what else I was going to be up against. Would mine be the only pie, or would have the entire Camden and Burlington counties put on their oven mitts and got to baking? We had no clue.

I was the second one to the tent, dropping off the pie. We got some compliments on the star cutout crust and double-checked the judging time. Then we wandered off in search of a much-needed breakfast and to see what this market had to offer, since it was our first time.

We definitely enjoyed the variety of produce we saw at Collingswood, but both agreed that we preferred the atmosphere of our own, slightly smaller market. It seems like there are fewer double strollers and pushy old ladies at the Burlington County market in Moorestown. Plenty of pooches though, and who couldn't love the fact that the BC farmers' market is AT a working farm? But I digress ...

While we had wandered about, a number of pies had come in for the contest. Some with lattice top crusts, some with nuts. I detected a few with berries, which wouldn't be my direct competition, as our pie was in the peach-as-the-only-fruit category.

At that point, the nerves crept in—not necessarily bad ones though. I was excited and eager for judging to begin. The contest coordinators looked to have their hands full, repeatedly exclaiming on what an amazing turnout this was! Twenty-five pies were there at the official start time, though they did let in a 45-minute late entrant (I wouldn't have ... contests have rules for a reason).

The first judging round was for presentation. While there were a number of lovely lattice crusts, I can honestly say there were an equal number of sloppy-looking and crumbling top crusts. To each their own, but I'm a strong believer in good presentation when it comes to food.

The winner was announced after ballots were tallied, and unfortunately, our pop-punk peach pie did not take home the gold. Instead it was the upside down pie, which looked more like a cake than anything else. I licked my wounds, shrugged it off, and got ready for the taste-testing.

Now, I have to say that Ray deserved a gold star or something for dealing with me, muttering about other pies and some of their bakers (this contest, like most I'm sure, attracted some odd birds). Like the mother who got pushy about the missing number card for her daughter's pie—totally gave me a short story idea about a girl being pushed into competitive baking. All throughout, he remained as cool as a cucumber as we waited for the judges to get their fill of pie and cast their votes.

My category, which had the majority of the pies in it, was up first and the winner, with 9 points, was announced. It wasn't me. But, because I had selected a choice spot for watching, I DID see who did vote for me. I received 2 points from a local food writer, which I took to be a high compliment. That put me at 5th or 6th place. Not bad out of 20+ peach-only pies.

Though slightly let down at the loss, I was still jazzed that I tackled a fruit pie and was a contender. Maybe not first place, but hell, the first place winner used a family recipe that was her Nana's! She baked with her family history, and if I have to lose, I'd happily lose to that.

We got to take our pies home, due to a local health code law, but before taking it back to the car, we grabbed a fork and dug in. The lavender honey's flavor burst in the filling, and the choice of slightly under-ripe peaches gave a tartness to the pie, which we both loved. The crust held up to the weighty pie filling, and the stars were flakey and buttery.

As we dug in, one of the contest volunteers came over to us and complimented the creativity behind the top crust. I told her it was my first attempt at baking a fruit pie and immediately pointed to Ray and announced him as the crust guru. After sharing the pie's contents, we convinced her to have a little taste. She also sneaked a fork off the table, slipped a biteful of crust and peach out of the pie plate and grinned as she had the sample. She agreed that the cardamom could be increased, and thought it would be interesting to try with different honeys. It was so cool to get someone else's feedback!

Triumphant for trying, we paraded the pie back to the car, locked it up and headed back into the crowd to pick up my order of 25 pounds of plum tomatoes, as well as some fruits and veggies we had eyed up earlier. If the market hosts a fall apple pie contest, we are SO going to be there, with yet another cutout top crust. I consider it my new pie signature.

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