The Southern tradition of good food and fellowship was overflowing at the 40th Alabama Farmers Federation (AFF) Heritage Cooking Contest Sept. 3 in Montgomery.
Sponsored by the Federation Women’s Leadership Division, the event featured 29 of the top cooks in the state who carried on the custom of making fried pies or tarts.
Clay County’s Felicia Dewberry won first place and $150 for her Fried Strawberry Pies. Angela Vollmer of Lee County won second place and $100 for her Southern Pecan Fried Pies, and Blount County’s Brandy Abel won third place and $50 for her Mini Fried Pecan Pies.
“I was shocked when they called my name as the winner,” Dewberry said with a smile, adding that she chose strawberries as a main ingredient for her dish because of a special family connection.
“I think fried pies are a favorite Southern treat, and I grew up eating apple and peach pies,” she said. “My daughter started raising strawberries a couple of years ago, and I thought it would be neat to use something she grows. The ones in my recipe today are frozen, but fresh would be even better.”
Dewberry said she and her husband, Lamar, have been involved with the Federation for nearly 20 years, and she’s been part of the women’s program for almost that long. They grow timber on their farm near Lineville and manage their property for wildlife as well.
“We believe in the Farmers Federation and what it does to promote agriculture,” Dewberry said. “Agriculture is a big part of what our country is, and it’s an important part of our history.”
Federation Women’s Leadership Division Director Kim Ramsey said contests like those sponsored by the Federation serve as a reminder of that history and the role farmers play in producing an abundance of food for Americans and people around the world.
“Most recipes have some family connection or are a tradition, and the cooking contest focuses on that and the commodities grown in Alabama,” Ramsey said. “The judges had a hard time making a decision because there were so many good pies.”
While judges were sampling pies and scoring pies on flavor, appearance, interest and recipe instructions, Debbie Deese, owner of Red’s Little School House Restaurant in south Montgomery County, entertained members with her country antics as she talked and sang about how her business began. The restaurant, originally a one-room schoolhouse built in 1910, features locally grown vegetables, made-from-scratch pies, barbecue, fried chicken and cornbread.
Click here to see the video of the event.