We lost, Washington County.
I don't blame you. It's not your fault. It's mine. I shouldn't have bet Esther, food editor and Jefferson County (Ohio) Fair goddess, that our cow would be bigger than hers.
I should have known that Esther would do anything to win.
Now, I am not accusing her of anything outright. I am just mentioning - purely in passing - that rumors that Esther was spotted in the market steer barn, feeding the cows chocolate cupcakes have reached my ears.
The Washington County Grand Champion market steer weighed 1,325 pounds. I had to call the university extension office to get this little tidbit of information, but it filled me with glee. I was dancing in the newsroom - try ridding yourself of that mental picture - because I was certain I was going to lay claim to the prize, a pie baked by Esther, who, in addition to her fair goddess status, also happens to be a minor cooking muse.
Alas, it was not to be - the Jefferson County champion edged us out by 13 pounds at 1,338.
I bet it was the cupcakes. It's not your fault, Washington County, because I am sure your cows are leaner and much tastier. We don't want cupcake-enhanced cows; they taste funny.
So I had to make a pie, and I'm sure we're all familiar with my less-than-stellar cooking abilities. I couldn't be embarrassed in front of the newsroom; I had to call in the big guns - so I called my mother. She was less than impressed with me for losing a bet, but she said she'd help me.
Well, that's what she said. In truth, I was not permitted to touch the crust whatsoever. I was not even present for the crust-making; I was at work. (Full disclosure here, people.) Apparently, I would be in danger of "over-working" the dough and that would make the crust inedible. (Not that I would have cared - the newsroom was a bit too gleeful in looking forward to my pie.)
I also was not permitted to purchase the supplies. Apparently, the apples I would have purchased - McIntosh - are not suitable for baking and would have gotten "mushy." I have no idea if this is true.
I did supply a recipe, which my mother ignored. It called for granulated sugar. My mother sniffed; she used brown sugar in her apple pies. I've already told you about the apples.
Also, it called for half a tablespoon of cinnamon, at least I thought so - I have trouble deciphering tsp and Tbsps. Anyway, however much I put in was too much, according to her, and she had to add another spoonful of sugar to combat the cinnamon. (As an aside, apparently, cinnamon was on sale when my mother went shopping, and she bought four canisters. She won't have to buy another can of cinnamon as long as she lives.)
I was not allowed to peel the apples. She peeled them, and she peeled them first, despite my suggestion we use my handy little apple-corer and slicer first. By that point, I had just given up. It was no longer my pie. I was just along for the ride.
However, I was permitted to mix the filling together - sans half the butter called for, I swear, she threatened to smack my hands if I put in one teaspoon more of butter - and pour it into the pie shell. I also was allowed to wet the edges of the crust, but I was not allowed to pinch it shut.
But the newsroom loved my mother's pie.
Look, people, I can't take another year of this, and Esther's already talking about placing a wager for next year.
So, next year, if you find me creeping around the cattle barn with a box of cupcakes, just remember - I'm doing it for us. Really.
(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)