The banner read “Sauerkraut Days” and it hung proudly, between two poles, at the entrance to the little town of Forresville. This town boasted a whopping twenty-five hundred citizens.
I moved to the area three months ago, so “Sauerkraut Days” was new to me. The buzz around town was, however, that this was the biggest event of the entire year. Carnival rides. A bake-off contest. A parade. All the hot-dogs and sauerkraut you could eat. Even a “Sauerkraut Queen. “
“Hmmmm, a bake-off contest,” I thought. “Now I could have fun with this.”
I went to the events office and filled out all the proper paperwork to enter the contest. The woman behind the desk eyed me suspiciously. “You thinking of entering this contest?” she asked.
“Well, yes. Is there any reason why I shouldn’t?”
“No, guess not,” she stated dryly. “Just so you know, Matilda Crossgivings wins the contest every year.” “She won it for the last seven years, although this year they have a new judge. She should make things a bit more interesting. ”
“Oh? Is Matilda that good a baker?” I asked.
“Not really. Rumor has it she pays off the judges.”
“Can she do that?”
“Don’t know. I only know she wins every year and heaven-forbid the person that might take away her crown.”
“Well,” I mused to myself. “Move over Matilda – make room for Shirley.”
The day of the bake-off arrived warm and sunny. I was anxious to take my contribution to the events tent. As I approached I noticed seven other baked goods had arrived. “Hmmmm,” I wondered. “Who else entered this contest?”
I dared ask the frumpy woman standing near the tent. “One is mine” she said proudly. “The rest belong to my sister, two daughters, mother, aunt and grandmother. They enter every year but have yet to win over my entry.”
“Oh! You must be Matilda,” I said as I held out my hand. “I’m Shirley Winner. Pleased to meet you. I also am entering the bake-off.”
“Hmph,” she muttered. “You can enter if you want, but I always win.”
“We’ll see,” I said as I added my contribution to the others, a Mile High Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Pie with real Whipped Cream. I noticed Matilda turned just a teensy bit pale as she observed my yummy looking pie.
“What did you make for this occasion?” I dared to ask.
“See that luscious looking Coconut Cake? That’s mine. It’s the best Coconut Cake around. Ask anyone here in Forrestville. They all agree.”
“We’ll see,” I said.
Promptly at four o’clock the judging began. Five judges took their places and dutifully began to sample each entry. I peeked at Matilda as the judges continued their tasting.
One-by-one they cut a piece of cake or pie or brownie and put it on a tiny white plate, then delicately took a bite. Sounds of “Ummmm,” “Yummy,” “Good,” could be heard throughout the tasting. They lingered awhile over the Coconut Cake which Matilda had brought.
As I looked over at Matilda I saw an alarmed expression on her face. “What?” I wondered.
Turning back to the judging, I noticed the new judge was not looking too pleased with the Coconut Cake. Maybe she didn’t like coconut. She took one bite, then two. Then set her plate aside as she picked up a clean plate to sample my entry.
I stood quietly, holding my breath. Five judges took a small piece of pie and placed it on their plate. Five judges took a bite and an audible “Oh My” could be heard from each one of them.
“Was that a good ‘O My’, or a bad ‘O My’,” I wondered.
Matilda didn’t look too pleased. In fact, her face was turning slightly red.
After some brief discussion the winner was announced.
“After sampling all of these wonderful treats, we, your judges, unanimously agree on the winner.”
I dared to look at Matilda but I couldn’t read her expression. She was staring straight ahead as though saying, “You better pick my cake, or else.” I saw her turn and look at me; not a very friendly look I must admit.
The announcement continued, “After seven years of Matilda Crossgivings winning this bake off, we are pleased to let you know that we have a new face this year. The winning entry goes to a real winner, Shirley Winner.”
The crowd applauded.
I smiled broadly.
Matilda humphed loudly and walked away.
Oh how I love “Sauerkraut Days.”
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