|dried cherry almond oat muffins, chewy granola bars, banana cake|
"I hate these papers. You never get things baked quite right when you use these," uttered the judge, as she peeled back the muffin liner, tore the muffin in half, peered inside, and then tasted a flake of muffin crumb.
No bite that combined toasted sliced almonds and plump dried cherries. No taste of the cinnamon sugar topping. She scribbled something on the tag, and moved on to the next muffin, the only other entry in the Health Muffin category.
These were not baked in papers.
These were awarded a first place blue ribbon.
Mine? A third place white ribbon. Despite being the only other entry in the category.
Disheartened, we wandered over to photography judging.
We watched as 19 close-up photos were spread out on the table. I spotted mine in the top left hand corner.
An artsy shot of cabbage. Savoy, all rippled and veined.
As she moved photos off the table, mine stayed! A pink ribbon for fourth place!
When the judges took a lunch break, B and I wandered the fair grounds in search of drinks. We hit up an airstream coffee trailer, and posed with the Harley Hog.
We stared at rows of tractors.
We returned to the pavilion, walking behind rows of ladies with clipboards and photo printouts, on which they carefully logged their ranking, the number of entries, and what kind of photos won.
Once again, my entry, a series of three architectural details, was placed in the top left-hand corner of the table. As the judge shifted the 14 other entries around, mine stayed put. I watched her write a 1 on my photo, and eagerly listened for her comments. She loved the clean lines and the clarity of detail.
|Arc de Triomphe|
|cathedral in the Cluny Museum|
A blue ribbon!
Not for baking.
My granola bars, confections of oat, honey, dried cherry, toasted pecan, and chocolate, were still waiting to be judged. They were the only ones in their category. I was confident. Two blue ribbons? For a first timer? Excellent. B and I headed home, needing a break from the pavilion.
Later that night, G and I returned to the fair. As G scoped out the food choices at brightly lit booths and towering tents, I pulled him to the building where I'd spent my morning. I couldn't wait to see my granola bars and their blue ribbon.
Er, red ribbon.
Second place. In a category in which I was the only entrant. The word excellent was scrawled on the tag.
A girl has to laugh.
G and I walked through the pavilion, past huge squash and 4H posters, decorated cakes and afghans, and I decided that my ribbons made for a much better narrative than if I snapped up all blue ribbons. As we sipped Bud Light and ate kettle corn, talked to politicians and skirted religious zealots, I celebrated being part of this community. Joining in the long line of women who bake. Who shoot photos. Who create. Who compete, once a year, not for money, but for a small token of recognition.
I'm proud of my ribbons, but my joy comes from feeding my family and friends sweet treats throughout the year. My joy comes from framed photos that I took decorating our home. My joy comes from sharing a bit of sweetness, a bit of perspective.
A moment of bliss.
With or without paper liners and blue ribbons.