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Pretty as a picture, this Perfectly Pink Cake

Fully Consumed: The Sweetness Of 4-H Favorite Foods Day

L-R Spring Valley 4-H’ers Ada Miller, Avery Ryan and Cassie Hansen point to their prize winning pastries

O’NEALS — Some days I love my job more than others, and last Saturday was certainly one of those special days.

It was my pleasure to be one of the many volunteer judges for this year’s Madera County 4-H Favorite Foods Day, when nearly one hundred young club members from around the area entered their recipes and displays into a competition that was fierce and, as it turns out, delicious!

The scene was Minarets High School, where one large room was dedicated to food and table settings. More than a dozen judges gathered to taste and carefully rate the delectable choices covering every available flat space. This is a well-oiled event, no pun intended, with Coarsegold 4-H’s longtime and absolutely indispensable coordinator Pat Strimling volunteering her talents once again to ensure the day would run smoothly.

Tables topped with main course meals — also a good way to see what kind of crock pots people are using these days!

With District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler and partner Leslie Stevens making up two-thirds of my three-person team of judges, I was in good and experienced hands. Sheriff Jay Varney was one of the judges, too, a position he looks forward to annually. Hey, these are the real rewards of public service.

Fifteen categories make up this food and baking competition: dairy foods, cookies, cakes, breads, appetizers, pastries, candies, healthy/diet foods, international foods, made-from-mix, entree/main dish, decorated food, salads, place setting, and mini-member.

Entries are judged on flavor, texture, appearance, display, and completeness of recipe. Special awards are given for categories including including beef, lamb, pork, raisins, almonds, goat, poultry, candy, salad, and educational theme.

For each entry in the blindly-judged competition, we were charged with giving up to 25 points and, fork and bowl firmly in hand, we set about to eat our way through our first category, fittingly: main dishes.

Here’s just some of what we consumed, in no particular order: chili, barbecued tri-tip, spaghetti casserole, creamed chicken with dumplings, beef stew, tamales, macaroni and cheese, a cheesy artichoke dish, and albondigas soup showcasing meatballs made with a cup-and-a-half of crushed Doritos. That last one was a real hit, as you might imagine. Doritos make everything better, sorry to say.

It took all my strength to not eat this lemon curd

Digesting the full implication of my responsibility at this point, and despite the Supervisor’s warning to just eat little bits (I thought I had), a slightly queasy feeling came over me — but our work wasn’t done and I was forced to soldier on.

Once we finished dissecting, tasting, discussing, and judging the main courses, we returned to our organizers for another category assignment. This time, it was pastries. I literally rolled up my sleeves, cleared my palate with ice water, and determined not to let these dedicated 4-H members down by failing to complete — that is, eat — the entire mission.

Now, it was cheese cake, chocolate cake, chocolate cupcakes, orange pie, berry pie, and whoopie pie. There was more, and all of it was tasty and attractive, but at this point the sugar was consuming me and that’s about all I remember until it was time for our third round.

Judges and other volunteers sample the entries

Thankfully, for this assignment, we needed only to judge with our eyes, as the final category for our team of three was decorated foods, where we graded the clever and creative application of frosting, sprinkles, color and texture to a host of delightful desserts. Place settings and decorated foods are judged on: proper setting, attractiveness, originality, menu to coordinate occasion, appearance, creativity, color, design suitable for purpose. The effort was remarkably impressive.

For me, an amateur baker with #goals and ambitions, cakes were the thing. From the unicorns with their rainbow interior, to the Perfectly Pink Cake reminiscent of a doily valentine, the entries were lovingly adorned. On the farthest table were three stand-outs: a smooth chocolate cake suitable for any restaurant and dressed with roses and fitted with manzanita knife, a delectable layer cake topped with chocolate-covered strawberries, and a wildly-colored striped and glazed cake spiked with stained glass-like gems made from melted candy. Wowza.

This knockout Gem Cake combined a cool-and-hot colored frosting with a berry glaze and sprinkles, topped by hand-made melted candy gems.

The mood in our room was festive as judges meandered about with styro bowls and paper cups, plastic forks and spoons, tasting and talking, laughing and rubbing our bellies as we compared the tastes and textures and rendered pro tips to one another (try the albondigas). Meanwhile, outside the room, things were really heating up.

I looked over at the locked door where, on the other side, scores of 4-H’ers clamored to enter. Three girls, in particular, had their faces so close to the thin vertical window between the hallway and the classroom that they were nearly swept away when it came time to exit. It turns out, those three were part of the well-represented Spring Valley 4-H, and dying to hear how their cakes had done. It turns out, they were the enthusiastic bakers behind the three cakes I mentioned earlier.

And it’s not just the youth that were excited. This is one of those events where you can easily tell the experienced parents from the beginners: the former had set up their chairs in the hallway, and coolers, and iPads, and were comfortably enjoying the day stretching out before them, even as their children anxiously awaited the moment when they would be allowed back into the big room to consume their results.

Yes, there were salads! No, I didn’t have any but it sure looks good

Ribbon or no-ribbon, it’s worth noting that all of the members who entered the competition are probably learning to love something important and wonderful that most Americans no longer like to do: that is, cook.

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, some 90 percent of people surveyed don’t like to cook — and it’s costing them thousands of extra dollars every year in prepared, takeout and restaurant meals. Meanwhile, Spring Valley’s Ada Miller is starting her own endeavor; look for I Ada Cupcake and her wares near you. Take that, Harvard Business Journal.

All of these commendable 4-H kids, their parents and their leaders, are undoubtedly the cream of the crop — pun intended.

Before I could get a days-end photograph of all the winners and participants together, they were called to their tables to eat the rewards of their efforts, a frenzied and free-for-all-feeding, well-deserved.

I thought I would never eat again. Two hours after I returned home, I was munching on the Kettle Corn we judges were gifted for our hard work. Hopefully, I’ve secured my judging spot for next year, now that I know the drill. Thanks, 4-H!

More photos are available to view here on Sierra News Online’s Facebook page.

91 individual 4-H members entered the Favorite Foods competition (up 20 from last year) including these young people from Spring Valley 4-H

Here the winners by category, place, name and club. Special thanks to Laurie L. Fringer, University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources 4-H Program of Madera County:

Madera County Favorite Foods Day Main Category Awards 2019
# Categories Gold Silver Bronze
1 Dairy Foods Katie Ylarregui Hunter William-Smith
Club Howard 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H
2 Cookies Leah Dendesian Adeline Fouch Griffin William-Smith
Club Spring Valley 4-H Coarsegold 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H
3 Cakes Macie Webster Avery Ryan Ada Miller
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Spring Valley 4-H Spring Valley 4-H
4 Breads Colie Tickel Bailey Herring N/A
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Chowchilla 4-H N/A
5 Appetizers Delaney Rocca Taryn Rosenthal N/A
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H N/A
6 Pastries Taryn Rosenthal Griffin William-Smith Tyler Rosenthal
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H
7 Candies Katherine Hauschel Micah Lee Julia Fruge
Club Sierra Shadows Sierra Shadows Sierra Shadows
8 Healthy/Diet Goodies Katie Ylarregui N/A N/A
Club Howard 4-H N/A N/A
9 International Foods Griffin William-Smith Nixon Gilbert Nixon Gilbert
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Chowchilla 4-H Chowchilla 4-H
10 Made from Mix Griffin William-Smith John Dudley Savannah Hieger
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Raymond 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H
11 Entrée/Main Dish Thomas Dudley Katie Ylarregui Nixon Gilbert
Club Raymond 4-H Howard 4-H Chowchilla 4-H
12 Decorated Food N/A N/A N/A
Club N/A N/A N/A
13 Salad Delaney Rocca Katherine Hauschel Julia Fruge
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H
14 Place Setting-Holiday/Special Occassion Decorations Savannah Hieger Kiden Lynch Jake Poore
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Coarsegold 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H
15 Mini Member (ALL Certificates/Ribbons)
Hailey Martinez
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Taylor Ward
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Lucy Lee
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Gianna Wagner
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Carolina Solis
Club Dixieland 4-H
Ian Rodriguez
Club Dixieland 4-H
                   Madera County Favorite Foods Day Special Category Results for Year 2019
Special Categories 1st 2nd 3rd
Almonds Colie Tickel
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Beef Hunter William-Smith Katie Ylarregui
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Howard 4-H
Candy Katherine Hauschel
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Dairy Foods Griffin William-Smith Katie Ylarregui
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Howard 4-H
Decorated Food/Holiday Special Occasion Decorations Cassie Hansen
                                        Club Spring Valley 4-H
Educational Award Katie Ylarregui Sara Lynch 0
                                        Club Howard 4-H Coarsegold 4-H 0
Goat N/A N/A
Lamb Brooklyn Tharp
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Place Setting Savannah Hieger
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Pork Thomas Dudley
Club Raymond 4-H
Poultry Jake Poore Katherine Hauschel
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H
Raisin Delaney Rocca
                                        Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Salad Katherine Hauschel
                                        Club Sierra Shadows 4-H
Consumer Science Gold Silver Bronze
Junior Julia Fruge Makenzie Ward Aiden Lynch
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H Coarsegold 4-H
Intermediate Sara Lynch Lailha Killion Thomas Dudley
Club Coarsegold 4-H Dixieland 4-H Raymond 4-H
Senior Devyn Johnson Alyssa Hernandez Abigail LaSpada
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H Coarsegold 4-H
Primary Hailey Martinez Taylor Ward N/A
 (Green Ribbon) Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H N/A
          Madera County Favorite Foods Day Showmanship Results for Year 2019
Showmanship Gold Silver Bronze
Junior Aiden Lynch Tyler Rosenthal Katherine Hauschel
Club Coarsegold 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H
Intermediate Cayla Williams Sara Lynch Thomas Dudley
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Coarsegold 4-H Raymond 4-H
Senior Alyssa Roma-Hernandez Bree Williams Emily Waldren
Club Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H Sierra Shadows 4-H
Primary Hailey Martinez N/A N/A
Club Sierra Shadows N/A N/A

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