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Kansas State Fair 2012 part 3: You Miss Every Shot You Don’t Take

*Update: You can now get my updated recipe that I submitted to the fair here.

So that you won’t have to endure reading this whole blog to find out whether I won or lost, I’ll tell you right now.  I got a ribbon. :)  Read on if you’d like to hear the whole story.

Wayne Gretzky is famously quoted as saying, “You  miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

That is really good life advice, and though I do miss a lot of shots because I’m too scared to take them, I can proudly say I would have made Gretzky proud with the way I put myself out there for the state fair competitions this year!  Well, either proud, or at least impressed by my audacity. ;)

From my snot sauce cookies, to my un-risen bread (not to be confused with the risen dead, though almost as horrifying from a baker’s perspective), to my burnt up and crust-fallen-off pies, I took a lot of chances this year and really set myself up for a lot of criticism, which I will be reading come this Sunday when I get my judging papers.  But as with the short loaf of bread that won third place, you just never know what the judges will think or how your entry will compare to others, and sometimes you just gotta take the shot and put yourself out there, ready to be disappointed & embarrassed, so that when you succeed, it’s even sweeter.

Such is the case with Grandma Joy’s Oatmeal Candy.  I did learn a lesson this year (make that many lessons), which is READ THE RULES VERY CLOSELY.  I scanned the information about the Heritage Recipes Contest, gathered that they were looking for old recipes that had been passed down in families since at least 1950, got excited and stopped reading.  I made Grandma Joy’s Oatmeal Candy recipe, which has been in Dennis’ family since 1890, put six of the candies on a white paper plate, following the requirements for the baked goods contests, and sealed it in a Ziploc bag, ready to submit it for judging.

It wasn’t until 1 AM the day I was to enter the contest that I read the rules and information more closely.  To my chagrin, I discovered that not only were they looking for “recipes suitable for family or community dinners” but they wanted you to include an entire aesthetic set-up with props.

Since there were only about five hours left before I needed to get up in order to get to the fair on time to turn in my entries, and I was already sleep-deprived, I decided I wasn’t going to enter it after all.  How could I?  Candy isn’t served at a dinner, is it?  And what in the world would I use for props? I had no idea, and no time to figure it out.

I was crushed.  This was the contest I was most excited to enter and that mattered most to me, because the recipe was special and I’d actually harbored fond dreams of presenting Grandma Joy with a ribbon for her recipe.  But I underestimated the power of my hope.  I do know after almost thirty-two years (yikes) of living with myself, that my hope has great strength and is very hard to kill, if not impossible.  If I want something bad enough, that hope inside me will rise up even after I mentally decide against trying for it, and force me to find a way to make it happen.

So only a few minutes after telling Dennis I wasn’t going to enter the Heritage Recipes Contest, and should probably just opt out of the pie contest too, that hope forced me to find a way to make it happen.  Maybe candy isn’t usually served with dinner, but I oculd see the judges accepting it because at a big dinner, it might be passed out afterward.  On my second wind, I hustled to the kitchen and piled the candies on a Blue Willow plate because although the plate is new, the pattern has been popular since the 1800s so I thought it would be suitable as a prop.  I searched desperately for any picture of Grandma Joy that I could frame and place beside the plate but couldn’t find one that had the right old-timey feel.  I did find several copies that my Mom made of an old photo of my Great Grandma Millner (her Grandma) and in a crazy act of desperation, I cut one down to fit a frame and stuffed it in there to set beside the plate. Well, I never said anything about the woman in the photo being the Grandmother mentioned in my history write-up.  So it wasn’t even a lie.  I mean, I can’t help it if they just happen to assume the woman in the photo was the one who gave me the recipe, simply because she’s sitting right next to it.

I then experimented with using dried roses and potpourri to round out the setting but it just looked terribly wrong and in the end, decided to use ingredients in the recipe as part of the props–oatmeal in a measuring cup, and powdered sugar and cinnamon in little dishes.  I knew it wasn’t the best, but I thought it was passable.

As I set up my presentation later that day next to the other ladies and gentlemen that entered, oh how unprepared I felt.  This was the first entry I saw and that unfailing hope nearly died on the spot.

Now this lady was prepared.  Miniature cast iron stove with miniature baked Zwieback rolls in miniature foil baking pans and the regular sized ones in front, with a gorgeous display with sunflowers, wheat, miniature enamelware used as backings for old family photos, and a sign over the top!

And here’s my sad presentation by comparison.

I didn’t even have a place mat.  I knew I was doomed.  But still…my hope was there.  Small, but alive.

I was watching the pie judging nearby and would get up and check on the Heritage Recipes contest judging from time to time.  I happened to get up just as they were reading and tasting mine…

It went fairly quick.  They each took a bite of the candy and set it down, reading the history about it and the recipe.  I felt even deeper that it would not place.  There were so many attractive entries…

I got caught up with talking to one of the other ladies that entered the contest and almost missed it when they announced I won third place!  The microphone was so quiet it would have been easier to hear her without it and I moved forward, catching only that they liked my presentation and the taste and history, and mostly how unique it was.

Everyone somehow knew it was me that had won despite no one there knowing my name, perhaps by the look of pure shock on my face, and they all turned to me, clapping.  If I had been alone, I would have been jumping up and down.  But knowing that almost-thirty-two-year-old women are generally more collected and mature, I smiled and nodded  and celebrated with the second and first place contestants.  Then I proceeded to exclaim “I can’t believe it, Dennis!” at random intervals throughout the remainder of the day.  So much for acting my age.

I went back later to see how they had put the winning entries on display and ran into Jane, the first place winner with her beautiful Zwieback.  We took pictures of each other in front of our displays and she sent this one to me by email:

I know I don’t look excited here but I was pretty exhausted by that point, only having had a couple hours of sleep.

She also sent me a picture of the second place entry, which I failed to catch somehow!  These are kolaches. a Czeck pastry (I actually have a recipe for them here, though my fillings aren’t the best):

And here’s Jane with her blue ribbon winner!

So there you have it.  I nearly opted out of a contest that I ended up placing in!  And if I hadn’t entered, I wouldn’t have met Jane, which I count as one of the best things abut my fair experience this year-the ladies I met.  There are definitely times when I regret my decisions, but as for this one, I’m just so happy I went through with it.  I can’t wait to give Grandma her ribbon! :)

If you’ve missed the previous entries in my 2012 State Fair series, you can check them out here:

2012 State Fair part 1: Murphy’s Law

2012 State Fair part 2: How I fared at the fair

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About Veronica

I have a kitchen addiction and love to collect & share recipes. My passion is baking but I love to cook as well. The only thing I don't like to do in the kitchen is wash dishes, but my husband generally does them for me in exchange for his dinner.

39 responses »

  1. Veronica- I cannot wait to try this recipe. I’m adding it to my Christmas candy collection. I am especially fond of food with a story. Seriously, that’s what its all about for me and what I’m trying to create for my family. You know when you remember that “the pineapple lettuce is always in the amber cut glass dish at grandma’s house”? This recipe and now, this experience at the fair, will give you your own history with this recipe! How wonderful. I love the recipe (I surely eat more oatmeal than anyone I know so I’m super excited to try this!). I love the pictures and the picture of the actual hand written recipe, and your experience, thoughts and emotion shared in this post. You’re awesome!

    Thanks so much for posting this!

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    • I’m making it for Christmas too and can’t wait to share it with Den’s family. And so am I, the story makes it so much more special! I’ll be sharing an updated version of this soon.

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  2. That is awesome you get to give her a ribbon for her candies. I’m so glad you entered! I love it when I win at my own parties, so I can’t imagine how you feel winning so much at the fair. I’m sure you’re estatic! I can feel your excitement with each blog :)

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    • It was hard to work up the excitement for this one. I was totally crazy excited at the time but was feeling down yesterday and I really had to work hard to express it without letting my current mood weigh the blog down. But feeling better today so tomorrow’s should be a lot easier. :)

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  3. I am so competitive that all these fair posts have me so intrigued! I knew you would win ribbons despite the drama this year. So proud! And I MUST make this candy. It is just my kind of thing. =)

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    • Becky, your comment reminded me I haven’t replied to your email. Sorry! I’m glad you are now able to comment again. And so happy you’ve been enjoying banana and pb oats-that’s one of my faves too. If you make it, add in a teaspoon of cinnamon along with the oats, then stir in a teaspoon of vanilla at the end. After rolling in powdered sugar, sprinkle just a little cinnamon over them all before packaging–that makes them even better!

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  4. You are seriously one of the most multi-talented bloggers I know! Loved reading about your experiences at the fair — and a huge congrats!!

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  5. Congratulations – you really had a wonderful fair.
    Lillian
    lillianscupboard.wordpress.com

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  6. Congratulations that is so awesome! What an unusual recipe that is. I love old recipes and cookbooks. So much fun!

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    • Me too! For how much I love old recipes and cookbooks, I hardly use them b/c truthfully, I have to update them to make them good enough to suit me. As I did with this one, but not very much. It was pretty good to start with.

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  7. my gosh so many rules! your entry was amazing, it deserved to win! but glad you got a ribbon anyway, but I am confused… what goodies got the ribbon?

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  8. I’m so glad you took the leap and reaped the reward! And that meeting Jane was the highlight. =) Way to go!

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  9. Congratulations! This is seriously such a cute contest. And you know what? Your display had heart and soul, and you didn’t need to hide behind a flashy display because you could like the candy speak for itself. Way to rock it!

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  10. Sometimes the most unexpected has the best results my friend – I am so glad you won with your gorgeous candy :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  11. I think I may put these in my Christmas baskets this year – they look insulin worthy for sure!! Congrats on your ribbon! That first place winner tablescape is amazeballs!

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  12. Congrats! I can’t believe the family resemblance between you and you great grandmother and no worries. No one will tell it wasn’t the right ancestor for the recipe. I loved all your fair stories!!!!!

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  13. Will you please share the recipe for how you made the oatmeal candy?
    I don;t see any cinnamon in te written recipe- they look SO good! thank you!

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    • Sure thing Kristin! I’ll be sharing next week–I just made another batch with the updated recipe so I can take pics since it looks different than what is pictured here. The ones here are the original recipe but as you noted, I updated it and it’s much better.

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  14. awww, that’s awesome! so happy to hear that you placed for this category esp. since it means so much :)

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  15. Your column about overachievers reminded me of a few lines from the awesome book Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie. Agnes writes the food column Cranky Agnes, and one of her columns includes, “That mother who made baked Alaska from scratch complete with tiny Eskimos carved out of candied ginger? She probably also screamed “No wire hangers!” Those over-achievers always have a dark side.”

    I generally don’t make candy…but I might try this recipe. But first…what is white syrup? Corn syrup? (And now you know why I generally don’t make candy.)

    Congratulations on the ribbon! Grandma Joy is probably sharing candy with all of her friends on the other side to celebrate. Along with some undead bread.

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    • I’m not positive, but I took it to mean corn syrup and it did turn out good with it. I will be sharing my updated recipe that is more specific and more tasty next week! Grandma is still alive and I’m going to mail her the ribbon along with some of the updated candy–I think she’ll be tickled…or I hope so. :)

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  16. I would place your oatmeal candy first, even if it isn’t exactly according to the rules. It looks freaking amazing, and my mouth waters to think of sinking my teeth into that. I really want it! I want! I want, want, want!!!!

    congrats on the ribbon, disasters aside. Now you can rest! :-)

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  17. Wow! You’re absolutely right; if you never put yourself out there then you are always left wondering and having regrets. This is wonderful news! And the candy sure does look tasty! So glad that you went out on a limb for this one.

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  18. CONGRATS! and I love the Gretzky quote, so applicable to so many aspects of our lives.

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  19. Very awesome story! All Jane’s must be pretty cool :) Congratulations!

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  20. Pingback: Oatmeal Candy « Veronica's Cornucopia

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