Our state fair is a great state fair...

Aug 17 | Posted by: Fighter #1 | Tags: Story time with Uncle steve

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, one of the high points of the year was always the county fair. Everyone would get together and play games and have contests and what not. My mom, being a culinarily-minded woman would enter some kind of cooking contest each year.

For most of my childhood, this was the pie making contest. Now these were serious, competitive pie making competitions, and my mother was a serious, competitive entrant. However, every year, no matter how she tried, she always came in second place to her arch nemesis Mrs. Pepperbottoms. Year after year, she was frustrated to discover that she only made the second best pie in the county. Each year she would try a new recipe only to be beaten by the narrowest of margins.

As the years passed, she became increasingly desperate to win. One year, she staged an elaborate heist to get the master pie recipe from Betty Crocker. I can’t divulge the full details (statute of limitations hasn’t expired yet), but it did involve drafting at least one of her own children to rappel down the side of the building and a non-zero body count.

Still, she came in second.

She spent the entire next year training under the pie master monks in Tibet. She arduously climbed the mountain to reach their monastery and spent days straight in meditation on the deep secrets of pie.

Still, she came in second.

Eventually, she just gave up and decided to compete in a different contest. The next year, she entered the sausage making contest where the competition was much lighter. She spent all year perfecting her bratwurst recipe. Finally, the day of judging came, and she felt sure of victory. She’d tried sausages made by all the other participants, and none of them were nearly as good.

We showed up bright and early, and she sent me to drop the bundle of sausages off for judging. We were the first ones there by hours. I waved at one of the judges who happened to be nearby as I tossed the bratwurst into the cooler to await cooking and judging. I didn’t notice it at the time, but no one had put any ice in the cooler yet. Several hours later, I saw one of the other contestants arrive and place her tubesteak in the cooler along with a bag of ice.

Finally, the hour was upon us! The assorted tube meats were grilled up and served to the judges. However, it wasn’t long before it became clear that something was wrong. Before they’d even finished sampling all the sausages, one of the judges became violently ill! Before long, all the judges were vomiting profusely. Food poisoning!

Obviously, the contest was considered a wash. My mother watched in devastation as Mrs. Pepperbottoms approached her, no doubt to gloat over another blue ribbon. To our surprise, she had received a paltry third place!

“How did this happen?” my mother asked. “You’ve gotten first for the last 15 years!”

“My heart really wasn’t in it this year,” Mrs Pepperbottoms replied. “Honestly, competition from you was what drove me to try so hard every other year. When I found out that you weren’t participating, I just kind of phoned it in.”

Mrs Pepperbottoms surveyed the carnage that was the sausage contest judging.

“You know,” she continued, “considering how this fiasco has turned out, I certainly hope you’ll reconsider pie again for next year. You know what they say: ‘if at wurst you don’t succeed, try pie again.’”

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