Last week I shared my reflections on the country show, and my personal history of show-going from infancy. Country shows are just so important in keeping traditional skills alive. I love watching the woodchop, and the Mudgeeraba show also has displays of blacksmithing, beekeeping, and the young farmers’ challenge.
The skills of cooking, patchwork, sewing, knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving, and craft are also kept alive through the challenge of the exhibitors pavilion.
I’ve needed little encouragement to enter exhibits in the Mudgeeraba Show for each of the last 6 years. Every year I eagerly await the release of the pavilion schedule. Then I go through and highlight what I could potentially enter. Closer to the show the list of intended exibits declines. The passionfruit aren’t ripe; the cockatoos attacked my lemons just as they were ripening; I ran out of time to make chutney. My list comes down to a couple of dozen entries, mostly in confectionery, cooking and preserves, produce, and occasionally a bit of craft, like my never-ending wallaby.
A month or so out from the show, I make a list of ingredients required for each exhibit in the cooking section, and add them to my shopping list. Then I make up a preparation schedule. Confectionery and preserves can be done a week or so ahead. But on the day that the cooking has to be entered the pressure is on.
So the night before I lay out all of my bowls, measure out butter and sugar, and take out the eggs so that they are ‘room temperature’. And set the alarm for 5 am. This year the temperature in the kitchen was 13.5 when I started. I’m sure this is not what is meant by room temperature, and the butter hadn’t softened that much overnight! I don’t have an electric mixer, and beat mine by hand. And I love my old kitchen scale, which belonged to my friend’s grandmother, though it makes measuring exactly 185 grams of flour something of a challenge!
Did you know that a trick with show cooking is to put your cakes and biscuits onto a teatowel to cool and not on a wire rack? That way there are no rack marks on the bottom. The judges do check!
This year I cooked in the morning and took one lot of exhibits in, then went to work for the day. When I came home from work I baked a couple of batches of scones, picked some grevilleas to enter, and assembled my display of fresh and dried spices. Then I headed off again in the evening with my second lot of entries.
I usually enter a few more exhibits than I did this year. It’s a bit of a bugger when work interferes with one’s usual contribution to the exhibitors’ pavilion! Other than my home grown and dried spices, I didn’t enter any other produce. I simply have not had enough in the garden this winter, and would rather eat what little I have.
So how did I do? I picked up a few firsts, a few seconds, a few thirds, and a totally undeserved High Achievement for some dreadful honeycomb that I thought I’d have a go at! I think of it as an encouragement award….
So there you have it – a summary of this year’s adventures in show cooking!
Is there a local show in your area? Could you enter some exhibits, and help keep the country show alive?