TRAVERSE CITY — Think home economics is a thing of the past? Don’t tell Barbara Klinetop, superintendent of the culinary arts department at the Northwestern Michigan Fair.
Klinetop, of Traverse City, takes fair week off every August to oversee the event’s culinary arts competition, part of the larger Home Economics and Art competition. This year the culinary contest attracted 200 entries, from pies, breads and other baked goods to jellies, preserved pickles and canned fruits and vegetables.
About 30 of those came from Julia Deemer, 73, who enters the fair every year. Deemer, of Interlochen, learned to cook from her mother when she was in third grade as a sort of consolation prize for not being able to go along on her younger brother’s class field trip to the circus. Now she bakes everything from cinnamon rolls to fruit breads, cans everything from tomatoes to beans, and preserves everything from pickles to relishes.
“I had heart surgery in April so I didn’t get as much done as I usually do,” said Deemer, who won one of two “sweepstakes” ribbons for her cucumber relish.
The entries were judged Sunday and will be on display at the fairgrounds’ Evelyn Heim Building through Saturday.
Klinetop said most culinary entrants are older area residents, fair volunteers and 4-H moms. But new participants are throwing their cakes, candies and bar cookies in the ring every year.
“Every year I have new entries, and the creativity of the cakes is starting to get better and better every year,” she said. “We’re finding that the younger ladies in the farm community are bringing in things.”
The competition also gets its share of male participants, mostly in the food preservation category. Barbecue and catsup/chili sauces are often hotly contested.
A panel of judges, including a graduate of the Great Lakes Culinary Arts Institute at Northwestern Michigan College, tasted every entry except the decorated cakes. The judges also evaluated them on texture and appearance.