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No party like a cookbook party

It is an odd thing to gather with a group of some of the same people each year — most of whom see each other only that one time a year — and still feel as though you are among a gathering of true friends.

That is the spirit, though, during our annual Parkersburg News and Sentinel Cookbook Tasting Party. It is such a good feeling to watch the men and women who bring in their dishes — and remember, these are people who are, in theory, competing against one another — embrace, stand and chat for much longer than the time it took to present their own dish and wish each other well.

Food people are the best.

Please remember, readers, that recipes are selected by a group of people who have no idea WHO submitted them. Yet year after year, the same faces appear at the party — sometimes in different categories, sometimes after skipping a year, and sometimes sitting at the judges’ table instead of presenting a dish, because they won the grand prize the previous year.

These amazing chefs care about each other. They notice if someone was absent last year, and get caught up on how that person is doing these days, when they see them again.

I love it that the News and Sentinel is part of such a wonderful tradition.

But I also love that this year, there were some new faces. One woman who had been chosen for the tasting party for the first time, had no idea there was more to it than simply sending in a recipe. She seemed to enjoy bringing in her dish, presenting it for the judges … and, returning later in the afternoon to find out she won first place in her category.

It is always fun to see new people become part of a tradition.

Speaking of tradition, this year’s cookbook will be our 65th. We’re doing something a little different with it. In addition to this year’s entries and winners, we’ll be featuring some “flashback” recipes. These are a few of the winners from as far back as the 1950s. It’s a treat to read just how cooking has changed in that time.

Of course we at the judges’ table have become friends over the years, too. None of us is a professional chef (though a couple could be). We just know good food when we taste it. And each of us has our quirks. There’s the one who always says “it needs salt;” the one who wishes things were just a little more spicy … the one who can’t handle coconut or cilantro. (That’s me).

One always wears a costume. One will drink nothing but water during the tasting. One manages to injure herself slightly every year. (Again, me. This time it was a little slice from some aluminum foil. Break out the Band Aids!)

But we work well together. And we know it when we find that stand-out dish — the one that makes us all go “Oh!” as soon as we take our first bite. We found it this year. I can’t wait for you to try it. You’re going to love it.

… but you won’t find out until our cookbook is published Nov. 24.

There’s so much in it to look forward to; I know you’re going enjoy using it as much as we did putting it together.

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Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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