The Leavenworth County Fair isn't a slick fair. The buildings aren't air conditioned yet (not a good thing in August in Kansas), the midway has lots of greasy, deep fried foods, and the rides have an authentic air of danger surrounding them. When you walk around the livestock sheds, you do have to look where you're walking. There's a certain amount of relief about genetic diversity when you see the different breeds that have been forgotten by industrial farms but are still loved by the farm families that show them every year. It's the real thing with duct tape construction contests, an oldest married couple in the county contest, and a Demolition Derby to close things out on Saturday night.
I wasn't really satisfied when I pulled my sourdough loaf out of the oven on Monday night. I thought it was too big at around 765 grams and my slashing wasn't symmetrical or dramatic enough to be of merit.
My French Country Farmhouse loaf had the same problems.
However, I figured that I had committed myself into entering and thought that I could always make it out as a learning experience. The established guidelines for the judges has been to award the prizes based on merit of taste as well as appearance so I felt I had a chance. I drove down to enter the loaves on time- a $0.25 entry fee per loaf- before 9AM and returned home to wait for the 1PM judging.
The judges weren't finished when I returned so I did the tour of the livestock displays. I admit to having grown up in a Massachusetts factory town but I can appreciate the care that the 4-H kids put into preparing their animals. However, after 45 minutes, I had to go and see the verdicts on my projects.
This first picture is my sourdough and the next is the French Farmhouse loaf.
The judges took out small slices from each loaf. One slice for tasting and another for display. I donated the loaves to the Fair for a sale to benefit the building's AC installation fund. I thought that extremely worthwhile. If you had been there yesterday, you might have chided me for being a cheapskate to not donate a little more to speed up the project.
As nice as it was to win the prizes, admittedly against few competitors, I started planning my entries for next year. Smaller loaves in the bannetons that arrived a day late, some glaze to add individuality to the presentation, and slashing to brag about. The best thing about my experience was the 10 or 11 year old girl that came up to me and told me that she had already bought my sourdough loaf. She said her family is Italian in background and having good bread is expected at her house. That's good enough for me.