While there are many winners each year, first-time entrant Michelle Gray of Canton wrote her impressions of entering and winning second place on Facebook. Gray eloquently summed up the joy of cooking and the fun of competing.
“Well, I am the proud winner of the second place for my cornbread at the County Fair. Yes, Eddie Gray has been on me for years to do this…It was so much FUN.
I need to tell a little about my recipe. it has ROOTS…I was @ 19 and loved cornbread…Not a very good cook. My Mama always did the cooking at our house. Kids cleaned up. Just the way it was…we peeled taters and so forth, snapped beans…but cooking was a little different.
So Veachel (Michelle’s father-in-law) is gettin’ ready to make the cornbread. He mostly did the bread after Ms. Charlotte simmered all day, beans of all sorts, and had left the house with such a cozy aroma.
I say to Veachel I never made bread before, think I could watch you do it? This was the start of the most AMAZING human to human relationship I had been witness to at this tender age.
He said to me that cornbread is a method cooking style, so in order to make it stand out, it was in the way you mixed it up, and so we did. As to not give away too many secrets, this is only basic, cornmeal, sugar, scant salt ... and MIX. In a small bowl we mixed milk, eggs, and we mixed, all this while a large cast iron skillet is heating in the preheated oven with a fair amount of oil.
We MIXED two bowls together and we mixed ... let that set, while we sat. And talked. He let me in on an ideal of cooking, anyone can do it, you have to know how to survive, but to make it your own.
So we got ready to mix the hot oil into the cool mixture, it made a sizzle, we looked at each other, his eyes so blue and wise, mine so brown and young and unknowing and unsure.
Time to pop it in the oven, he said, and we did.
About 20 minutes later and the most amazing smell, and conversation, we had dinner.
And it was as yummy ... as the years went on, we each changed the way we did things in some small way or the other.
The last years of his life he often said he taught me too well, made me laugh.
No one could ever make it as good as he. But thanks Veachel for the lesson.
This award goes to you all, Veachel, Charlotte and my nanny Susie Hudson, for your love of family and cooking. I miss you all.”
The Cherokee County Fair continues through Sunday. Gates open today and Friday at 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.