The newspaper cutting held pride of place on Madge's fridge door. She paused to look at the photo and read the article from the the local paper, 'The Advertiser'.
'Best cook in town', was the caption and the picture was of Madge, holding a cake. Skewered on top of the cake was a blue ribbon and rosette and in front was the tag: 'Sponge Sandwich: First Prize Madge Robinson'.
'Madge Robinson's culinary skills won her eight first prizes at the Wurna Agricultural Show this year,' gushed the article. 'And this is the fifth year running that she has taken out all the prizes. The judges declared her sponge sandwich cake the best they had ever tasted.'
Madge often re-read that article. It was her claim to fame. Everyone in the Country Women's Association had heard of her, not just in Wurna, but throughout the state. The article was yellowing and fly-spotted, but Madge didn't care. She had four more copies stashed away.
It was September again and the Wurna Show was looming up. Madge had planned her entries carefully, checking her recipes and her notes. People often asked for her recipes, especially the famous sponge sandwich recipe, and she did share them. But she always she kept some of her culinary secrets to herself.
Madge's sponge sandwich cakes were always perfect, evenly risen with both layers exactly the same. She never told anyone her secret of weighing the pans before and after adding the mixture so the halves were precisely equal in size and weight. She never explained her secret ways of stopping the cakes from rising too high in the middle or sinking down, nor what gave them a special extra flavour. These winning secrets she held close to her heart.
Solid of build and character, Madge was well-known in the town of Wurna. She was a dependable, salt-of-the-earth type of woman, a no-nonsense person. She put her hand up for committees. She put in the hard yards.
On Show Day Madge took her perfectly prepared cakes in early, driving slowly, cornering gently. Carrying them in carefully she set them in place then headed home. There was really no competition. No-one could hope to beat her in the cooking game.
Judging was at one o'clock so she pottered around at home, waiting till it was time to return for the results. She ate a solitary lunch of soup and bread and listened to the midday radio serial. It was lonely these days without Jim. It was three years since he died and Madge missed him a lot. And with the children and grandchildren so far away she was often on her own.
At precisely two o'clock Madge climbed into her car and headed back to the show. She'd be just in time to see the results posted. She was quietly confident of success. She parked and entered the building.
Several women greeted her: 'Off to see all your blue ribbons, Madge?' Madge smiled and said, 'Well, I can't be the winner every time!' But she knew she would be. She headed to the sponge cake section and there, behind the glass, was the cake that had won. But it wasn't hers.
'Sponge Sandwich: First Prize Hilda Green,' read the tag. Madge froze and her face paled. She'd been outdone. An unknown rival had trumped her. It was unthinkable. She headed for a chair and sat down heavily.
'Are you alright?' asked someone she didn't know, a trim woman in a floral dress. 'You look a bit faint. Can I get you a glass of water?'
'Yes please,' whispered Madge, still in shock. The woman soon returned with a glass of water. 'Thanks,' muttered Madge.
'I'm Hilda Green,' said the stranger. 'I've just moved to Wurna and I don't know a soul yet.'
Madge gasped. This was her rival, the usurper. 'Pleased to meet you. I'm Madge Robinson,' she managed to say.
'Madge Robinson! You're famous Madge! You're a legend in the cooking world. I'm so thrilled to meet you.' She said nothing about her own win. 'Madge you've got seven firsts today! You've done so well. I'm in awe of you! Could we get together some time and talk cooking?'
Madge's face crinkled into a smile. Hilda wasn't a rival, she was a potential new friend.
'Come round tomorrow afternoon for a cuppa if you're free. Here's my address.' She wrote her address and phone number on a piece of paper and pressed it into Hilda's hand.
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