Family Heirloom Recipes from the Illinois State Fair
Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance's inaugural compilation of Family Heirloom Recipes from the Illinois State Fair is in honor of the Illinois Bicentennial. Since 2009, we have sponsored family heirloom recipe contests at Midwestern state fairs.
Contestants would enter their best scratch family heirloom recipe suitable for a family or community dinner. The recipe should have originated 50 years or earlier. Contestants would bring a prepared dish along with a history of who passed the recipe down to them, ethnicity, if relevant, number of years the recipe has been in their family and any interesting information about their recipe. The all-important history of the recipe would account for fully half the score, with execution and taste (40%) and appearance (10%) accounting for the other half.
This book offers an opportunity to follow the judging experience by providing the histories and recipes presented as submitted to the Illinois State Fair (2009-2018). A picture of the food taken as presented at the fair. These treasured family recipes were sometimes submitted simply in their transport container, or more elaborately on the family's china with relevant props of family pictures, kitchen paraphernalia and their loved one's handwritten recipe.
All 81 recipes from 77 competitors are provided as presented to preserve their historical integrity. Some of these recipes originated when oven temperatures were difficult to regulate, or temperature was literally taken by hand: stick your hand in the oven chamber and count the seconds before your hand cannot tolerate it. When dealing with oven baked goods use your best judgement whether the recipe's finished cooking in the time stated.
Unlike many sponsored contests who rely on state fair appointed judges, we send our members to judge the Family Heirloom Contest. Our contest is unique because a final decision is not solely dependent on the recipe's execution. We weighted the history at 50% to emphasize it is a major consideration. Consequently, an excellent history can trump a recipe's execution, but an excellent dish with no history will never rank. We do recognize participation would be greater if we dropped the expectation of a history, though it is cost we can live with to achieve our goal of breathing new life into old recipes.
At the end of the state fair season, these recipes, histories and images are loaded to our website. Over the holidays, there has usually been a bump in traffic as people searched for long lost recipes. The digital age provides great opportunity to explore, though the content is fragile when websites are no longer funded, or a virus wipes out a memory. Memorializing the precious content from this contest in a book reduces the opportunity for loss once more by spreading the word. If used bookstores exist two hundred years from now, we can only hope someone gasps with recognition of a name or recipe in this book.
For the long haul the original histories and recipes will be archived at the University of Michigan Library Special Collections Research Center in the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archives in Ann Arbor. This culinary archive is a mecca for researchers. We want to encourage the continued use and study of these Family Heirloom Recipes, because these recipes and their histories will live on as long as they not forgotten.
Over time, we will issue similar books for recipes and histories collected at other Midwestern State Fairs: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
If nothing else should this book inspire you to document a family favorite recipe to share with loved ones, then we have accomplished our mission.
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