Consider the peach: fuzzy, sweet, juicy, delightful. Perfection in a rosy skin. And so versatile! Good in pies, good in cakes, good in salsa and tamales. Most things, it seems, can be improved with a peach.
Which brings is to the 44th annual Palisade Peach Festival. A longtime tradition of the festival is the recipe contest, in which amateur chefs demonstrate their peachy might. And Melinda and I got to serve as two of the judges!
I grew up in Palisade, so getting to judge the recipe contest was the fulfillment of a longtime dream: So much peachy goodness, and all for me! And Melinda, of course. Here is our story.
Melinda: Not going to lie, Rachel. Eating 15 pies or tarts at 8:30 a.m. is not easy. Judging them adds difficulty. I felt like an Olympics gymnastics judge - only instead of scoring teenage girls with the world watching, I judged baked goods on taste, appearance and texture with Fred Burmeister looking on.
Never mind that it's touch to judge pies. I mean, it's pie. Of course, it's awesome.
(Melinda is the upper left-hand corner asking questions about pie.)
Rachel: Melinda, I'm not going to lie, either: I was jealous when you were assigned to judge the pies and tarts category. If my brain was a pie chart, 95 percent of it would actually be pie. I LOVE pie. But! Then I discovered the wonderful world of "miscellaneous, non-refrigerated." To summarize my feelings:
I mean, I ate a peach chili relleno! Plus, pasta, cakes, breakfast rolls, breads, cookies... It was a wonderland. I strove for objectivity, but I'll confess that an element of my opinions was "Is this so delicious that I want to put it in my pocket, then take it home and sleep with it under my pillow?"
I'm pleased to report that, thanks to the entrants' creativity, much of what I ate was that delicious. Oh, there were some dishes in which I could taste starch or that were undercooked, not peachy enough or overdid an unusual spice, but mostly? Yum.
Lesson learned the hard way, though: Judges are supposed to TASTE the entries, not devour them. I cleaned my plate 22 times and was deeply sorry by the end.
Melinda: I don't know how you physically did it. I ONLY ate 15 pies and tarts. You had 22 "miscellaneous, non-refrigerated" items. You were a champ. Somewhere in the peach pit of my stomach was an enormous sense of pride, knowing you were my friend.
With that said, it took me three days to eat another peach. I was more over peaches that I could possibly have been with any fruit. Then, Erin McIntyre brought in warm peach cobbler Tuesday, which, for the record, she should definitely enter next year.
Overall though, I thought the chance to judge the recipe contest was such a fun day. What a neat experience. I mean, I had the best peach pie of my life at that contest. It was neat to see how many good bakers and chefs are out there. Long live the peach!
Rachel: I went home and, after my stomach settled, gobbled three more peaches — straight, no chaser. Long live the peach, indeed!