I was going to be a judge at Duke Homestead for its Pork, Pickles, and Peanuts festival, but I had some concerns.
1.) Would the barbecue be so spicy it would make me cry? Very embarrassing.
2.) There was a pie contest. Would I have to sample a thousand or more? Very alarming.
3.) They were having a beauty pageant. Would a disgruntled mother of a losing contestant stalk me in the parking lot and beat me up? Very painful.
When I arrived, I went to the on-site tobacco museum. I met one of my fellow judges, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Susan Kluttz. We were taken on a quick museum tour.
There was a display that featured an animatronic farmer. He bore a striking resemblance to Abe Lincoln from Disney World’s Hall of Presidents. That’s because he was made by the same company that produced all of Disney’s moving mannequins. He was creepy-cool.
We saw early cigarette making machines. We were informed that in case of a building remodel, the hulking contraptions would stay in place, because they’re so large, the museum was literally built around them.
Around one corner was a hilarious exhibit, the world’s largest collection of spittoons and cuspidors (there is a difference between the two, I learned).
Then it was time to be a judge. At the table, I met the rest of the judges. Elizabeth Hudson, editor of Our State magazine, Dale Coats, deputy director of the North Carolina State Historic Sites, and David Cash, the volunteer and donation relations coordinator at the Durham Rescue Mission.
Jennifer Farley shepherded us through the barbecue contest. She served each of us a taste of 11 different samples.
They were all good, but there were differences. Some were a bit dry. Some were a little tough. There were a couple of spicy ones, and one had so much vinegar on it, it took my breath away (but I didn’t cry). And a couple were just right. Tender, juicy, and the right amount of heat. We filled out our ballots, and then moved onto pie.
The pies were delicious, and not too numerous. One of the pies was something unique.
It was key lime and blueberry, with almond. Cool and creamy, with a crust I’ve never experienced before. It took first place. I asked the baker what was in the crust. It turned out to be bran flakes.
The creator, Harriet Carter offered the recipe for this column. So, in her own words, here is:
Key Lime Pie Extraordinaire
3 cups crushed cereal such as corn flakes or bran flakes (best to crush in food processor)
1/3 cup sugar or Splenda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup melted butter (or coconut oil)
Mix well together and divide equally into 2 regular sized aluminum baking pans. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely
1 regular can sweetened condensed milk (fat free is fine)
1 eight ounce block cream cheese, softened
2 cups vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup granulated sugar (or Splenda)
1/2 cup key lime juice (Such as Nellie and Joe’s)
1/4 cup water
1 envelope plain gelatin
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (for filling)
1/2 cup blueberries for garnish
Canned whipped topping or in tub (thawed)
1 cup sliced almonds or chopped pecans
Place first 4 items in food processor bowl. Pulse on high until smooth. Dissolve gelatin in water and then mix with key lime juice. Add to filling mixture and pulse until smooth. Add a few drops green food coloring if desired. Mix blueberries evenly throughout the mixture by hand. Divide evenly into the 2 pie crusts. Each pie serves 6
Chill well in refrigerator until set.
Top with dollops of whipped topping or spread evenly. Garnish each pie with sliced almonds and a few blueberries if desired.
Later in the day was the Tobacco Queen contest. I was relieved to discover it was a spoof, put on by Homestead staff. All the young women were dressed from the 1940s, the heyday of the Tobacco Queen. So, there were no furious, maniacal stage mothers.
In the end, I had a great time, met some terrific people, and ate some amazing food.
And I only gained two pounds.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.