Dora Rider’s third trip to the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Heritage Cooking Contest was a charm — and a tasty one — as the Monroe County mother captured first place in the statewide contest on Sept. 6 with her Chili Cornbread Salad.
“It was really a recipe for Cornbread Salad that I just changed around a bit,” said Rider, who took home the blue ribbon and $150 prize in the competition which featured winning entries from 28 other Alabama counties.
“One of the changes I did was I used Mexican cornmeal mix, and then I added chili peppers to spice it up.”
The second-place, $100 prize went to Rhonda Hughes of Jefferson County for her Fruit Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette. Mary Tucker of Fayette County took third place and $50 for her Grape Salad.
The Heritage Cooking Contest is sponsored by the Federation’s Women’s Division as a way to showcase the flavor, versatility and nutritional value of Alabama agricultural products. Dishes were judged on taste, appearance and ease of preparation.
Contestants in the Heritage Cooking Contest qualified to compete in the statewide event by winning their county Farmers Federation cooking contests earlier this year.
“With salads being this year’s category, almost all of the commodity divisions were represented, which was an excellent way to promote Alabama agriculture,” said Kim Earwood, director of the Federation’s Women’s Division, adding that the salad theme was recommended by past participants.
While the entries were being judged, contestants and guests were entertained by Bobbie Lane, a longtime Tupperware consultant from Spanish Fort who brought an array of ideas for the upcoming holidays as well as quick and easy meals.
While Rider “spiced up” her salad’s taste, she also added some pizzazz to the looks of her dish, which was topped with a “flower” of cherry tomatoes.
“Usually we have a placemat and flowers or something to help ‘dress up’ the dish, but this year, there was none of that,” said Rider. “The dish had to stand out on its own. That’s why I put the little flower thing on top, to do something just a little bit different.”
Rider, who learned to cook from her grandmother and today works at the Alabama Farmers Co-Op in Frisco City, said that while the presentation helped catch the judges’ eyes, that obviously wasn’t the deciding factor. “Oh, it was the taste,” she said. “It’s really good. I thought the presentation was good — it just sort of popped out at it you. But overall, it’s the taste that wins it. When you’re talking food, that’s what counts.”