Ready for a cooking contest?
I am not Irish. Growing up, I never saw gray corned beef. It was always bright red from the Jewish deli.
But, after working in Clinton for nearly 30 years, certain Irish traditions have seeped into my life.
Of course, now that it's March in Clinton, those familiar traditions are creeping back in.
For me, it started with St. Patrick's Day lunch at the Old Timer. Maybe the proudest Irish moment for this Jewish girl was getting my shillelagh last year at the Leprechaun Convention.
But there is one event that always has me putting on the green. Every year, the Item co-sponsors the Irish cooking and baking contest. It started many years ago when we partnered with Michael Kanala at the Basket Beanery. The soda bread contest always brought a dozen amazing variations.
When Cheryl Hughes, at Tinker's Cart, took over the contest a few years ago, she and I decided that man (or woman) cannot live on soda bread alone. After all, the public voting occurred from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., so we were making our lunch at the tables.
The contest expanded, first to include sweet treats with an Irish inspiration. A couple of years ago, we added a savory category.
This year's contest is Wednesday, March 11. Every year, my husband and I try to come up with a new creation to submit (though, in fairness, we are not in the running for the prizes). Honestly, for me, it is a chance to get my creative juices flowing.
Two years ago, we made mint Oreo truffles. Last year, we created fried potato balls with crispy corned beef and cheese.
This year? It is still a secret. I can tell you that the entry is savory and the trial batch we created last week was delicious, but still needs a couple of tweaks.
What is the best part of the competition?
It could be the smiling faces on the people who crowd the store between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to sample all the entries and vote for their favorites in all three categories.
It could be the faces of the winners when they claim their prizes.
For me, though, the best part comes later in the spring, when we put all the recipes together and print a cookbook, to benefit the Item Appeal. Since we add recipes from previous contests, you see some interesting recipes -- Savory, traditional and sweet -- and all the money goes to the Item Appeal. Yes, the savory surprise my husband and I are creating will be included. So will all the other entries.
Dig out your recipes. Test them out this weekend and bring a finished product to Tinker's Cart between 9 and 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 11. Include a copy of the recipe so we can share it. Maybe you will win a prize. But the money we collect for the Item Appeal is always a reason to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and throughout the whole year.
Jan Gottesman is managing editor of The Item. She can be reached at email@example.com.