In honor of Clara Ayers and her four prize winning recipes of 1935, join us as we step back in time, to a time when the citrus groves in the valley south of the San Bernardino Mountains reigned (and the foothills were clear of smog.)
This week we write to a picture prompt. Reading will be quick, picture prompt posts are limited to 300 words. There were a variety of picture prompts to choose from. This is the one I picked. Go check out the others to see what snippets they wrote to other pictures.
“Where on earth did she find nice strawberries this time of year? I know they’re still around, but my harvest waned out weeks ago.”
Clara shook her head in amazement. “Who knows? Mine are gone too. I’ve got a few watermelons left. That’s about all. She must be one of those Orange County women. Maybe their growing season is different from ours.”
“I just thank the Lord I’m not up against her in any category. That was sure a fancified dish she’s waltzing around with.”
With all the chit-chat, the time passed as it usually does when old friends get together and talk, even though this was the most conversation that Clara and Bessie had ever had. Before they knew it they were at the front of the line, filling out slips to turn their delicacies in for judging. Ted patiently followed every step of the way, not uttering a peep. With the dishes in the hands of the fair people, he and Clara headed to the truck for the bumpy ride home.
Clara felt at odds over the next few days. After months of the baking contest consuming most waking moments, either in planning, debating, or actually baking various recipes, now it was sit and wait. She felt like a mother hen without a clutch to care for.
The day finally arrived when they’d find out who won the ribbons – and the prize money. Clara sat on the stoop waiting for Ted and Hazel to come pick her up, her pocketbook perched on her lap. As a bead of sweat dripped down the side of her face, she dabbed at it with her handkerchief.
The truck finally appeared coming down the drive, filling the air behind it with a dusty plume. Ted slowed as he approached the house and eased to a stop not far from her. “You’re not anxious are you, Mother?” Hazel called out the open window as she scooted to the middle of the bench seat.
Clara grinned as she settled herself in the truck, tucking her blue cotton skirt around her legs. “Not much. Well…maybe just a tad.” Pulling the door shut, she wiped at the perspiration again. “Gonna be a scorcher today. These Indian Summers are gonna be the death of me. Days like this I wish I were back in Illinois.”
On the drive to the fairgrounds, Hazel chattered away about their plans for the dairy and how they wanted to upgrade some of the milking machinery. She stopped mid-sentence. “…Mother? Have you heard a word I said?”
Clara jerked as she realized her daughter had caught her. “Sorry, dear. Guess I’m woolgathering. What were you saying?”
“Never mind. It was nothing important.” The firmness in Hazel’s jaw said otherwise.
Fortunately Ted pulled up to the fairgrounds parking lot, breaking the tense moment between mother and daughter. Throngs of people strolled through the lot and milled about the main entrance. He had to wait for strolling guests to walk by before he could turn into an open spot. “Guess the bleak economy hasn’t hurt the fair attendance none.”
At the gate Ted paid the entrance fees for all three and they scurried towards the Home Economics buildings where the baked good would be displayed with the entrant’s name. Some would boast ribbons and many would not.
They entered the quansant hut building and a stifling heat enveloped them. Electric fans were perched on counters throughout the building, but they did little than simply move the hot waves of air in tepid brief spurts. Clara and Hazel fanned themselves with the programs they’d gotten when they entered.
“What are we looking for?” Hazel asked.
“Cookies, rolls, and dessert breads.”
“May as well start at the far wall and walk every aisle.”
The search was on. Aisle by aisle, counter by counter, they searched every baked good, looking for a card with Clara’s name on it.
They scanned the cakes, not looking too intently, since Clara hadn’t entered a cake this year. Clara stopped suddenly, causing Hazel to run into her. “Mother! What on earth?”
Clara pointed to some of the cakes sitting on the middle shelf. “Look. There’s Bessie’s. She’s got three ribbons right there.”
Hazel read out loud. “Date Loaf Cake, first place. Angel Food Cake, second. Dark Fruitcake, second. Not too bad. You’ll top her though, Mother.”
Dessert breads were in the next counter. Clara spied her first. Knowing which dishes she’d used helped her spot her own creations out of the mix. “Second Place!”
“For which one?” Hazel looked confused.
“That one. The gingerbread.” Clara stepped closer to the counter. “Should have known. Katherine Bower got first. She’s from Pomona too. Just like Bessie.”
The trio rounded the corner and headed down the next aisle. “Cookies. Here we go. I’ve got two cookie entries.”
Again, Clara spied her dishes first and hurried to get closer and see the results. “They both have a ribbon!”
Hazel leaned in close to her mother’s shoulder to get a better view. “Very nice, Mother. A first and a second.
Clara looked at the plates sitting next to hers and started laughing. “Will you look at that? Martha and I flip-flopped.”
Hazel squinted her eyes and looked at her mother with a confused look. “Huh? Who’s Martha? What are you talking about?”
“Martha. Mrs. Sam Teeter. She lives in La Verne. Her husband works at one of the citrus groves. On Chocolate Drop Cookies she took first and I took second. And look…” She pointed to another plate of cookies. “…and on Molasses Drop Cookies I took first and she took second.”
Hazel snickered and shook her head. “I declare. You women and your competition with each other.”
When Clara discovered she’d taken a second place for her Light Rolls, she felt a tension leave her shoulders. She didn’t realize she’d been so wrought up about how she’d do. Of course, she had to keep a mental count of Bessie’s wins also.
When they were done examining every dish in the building, Ted turned to the two ladies. “Want to go get a popcorn or a cold lemon-aide? My treat.”
Hazel tucked her arm into her husbands. “That sounds delightful. A cold lemon-aide would hit the spot right now.”
“May as well see a few of the exhibits while we’re here.” Ted placed his hat back on his head and pulled the brim down.
Hazel gave him a gentle nudge. “You just want to see the dairy exhibits and see what’s new.”
Hazel laughed and teased him back. “All right, my sweet diary man husband. You get your treat too. You’ve been so patient with my mother and me.”
Clara took Ted’s other elbow and off the three went, to wander the fair and search for a vendor with snacks and cold refreshments. Clara stopped and gave a wave to the building as they exited. “Four ribbons. I’m happy with that. I’ve done better. I’ve done worse. Bessie got five. But that’s okay…watch out next year Mrs. Sinkey. We’ll see who wins the most in 1936!”
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