ANKENY --- It probably shouldn’t have been surprising when Judy Thompson won top honors in this year’s Spotlighting Spuds contest at the Iowa State Fair.
After all, she’s always been a good cook and has enjoyed fine-tuning recipes for the fair for more than a decade.
Her husband, Paul, puts it simply. “I know, when she has something ready to enter, that it’s going to be good,” he says.
This year, Thompson’s winning entry in the contest, sponsored by Iowa Farmer Today, was Down-Home Mashed Potato Pot Pie.
Thompson devised the recipe specifically for the contest. She used a box of mashed potatoes she had on the shelf, decided maple syrup would add flavor and threw in apples, onions, cheese and a bit of puff pastry.
The result was too good for the judges to resist. But, the road to first place started many years ago for the Central Iowa cook.
“My dad was a butter maker,” she explains. “My grandfather was a butter maker. I’ve always had those farm connections.”
She also has always had cooking connections. A long-time gardener, 4-H leader and former school cook, Thompson always enjoyed time in the kitchen.
“My dad was the cook in my family,” she says. “He was my inspiration.” That inspiration led her to a lifetime of home-cooked meals with her family.
“I would rather cook than go out to eat,” she says.
That lifelong interest in cooking eventually led to her participation in contests at the fair.
“A girlfriend of mine was my inspiration,” Thompson says. That friend had entered items in the fair’s contests for several years. Thompson started by sending items with her.
However, she soon decided to try her luck entering the items herself. Unlike some veteran participants, she decided to limit her entries to a few.
But, each year she chose a few contests and brought her entries to the fair. Eventually, she volunteered to help in the food pavilion. “I really enjoyed that.”
But, participating is even more fun. “I love to enter,” she says. “I love to bake and to experiment.” This year led to her first-place finish.
Marjorie Rodgers of Indianola won second place overall with Something Special Sweet Potatoes. Cristen C. Clark of Runnells placed third with Garlic Rosemary Hasselback Potatoes.