It’s a cook’s prerogative


To the Editor:

This is a copy of a letter sent to the MVAS Agricultural Fair staff:

For most of the last 25 years I’ve entered yeast breads in the fair’s baked goods section. The rules and regs didn’t change much until last year, when the two yeast bread categories were consolidated into one and a few other categories were dropped.

When I filled out my entry form this year, I scanned the premium list to make sure I’d got the class number right, but that was it. So last Thursday morning I was surprised when I was told that I had to submit my recipe to enter my bread in the fair. Was this to make sure that the judges weren’t allergic to any of the ingredients? No, I was told; it was so that the fair can publish a cookbook.

I wasn’t happy about this, and there were several other people grumbling at the picnic table while we prepared our entries, but I wrote my recipe down and handed it in. I’ve since heard of several capable bakers who decided not to enter anything because they took exception to the recipe requirement. Good for them.

If the M.V. Agricultural Society wants to publish a fair cookbook, fine, but let the Island’s bakers decide whether they want to submit recipes or not. Plenty of cooks prefer to share their trade secrets selectively, or not at all. To make entry in the baked goods category conditional on surrendering a recipe is like making entry in the fishing derby conditional on disclosing one’s favorite fishing location.

I hope this coercive and uncalled-for requirement disappears from the rulebook before next year. It is, in more ways than one, unfair. Next year, for sure, I’ll read the rulebook before I get down to baking, but I won’t be happy about it. It’s too much like having to lock one’s front door because one doesn’t trust one’s neighbors.

Susanna J. Sturgis

West Tisbury