A soup-urb contest at Torrington Farmers Market

October 13, 2018

TORRINGTON, Wyo. — The second annual Torrington Farmers Market Soup Cook-Off went off without a hitch on Oct. 11, when cooks and tasters gathered at the pavilion in City Park to try soups.

Caleb Carter, Goshen County Extension educator, said the cook-off started as a way to attract people to the farmers market.

“We were trying to think of ways to promote the market and get people to come out,” he said. “We thought, ‘People really like contests like cook-offs,’ and there’s a really famous one in Chugwater, the chili cook-off they do there every year, so we started looking around the region and we couldn’t find anyone who did a soup cook-off. So we thought, ‘What the heck, let’s give it a try.’”

Last year, the majority of the soups were some variation of potato soup: potatoes and lentils, potatoes and leeks, etc. This year, the field was much more varied, with organizations like SAREC and Goshen County Economic Development competing with individuals, all bringing their own soups.

Linda MacDonald, who competed last year with an Italian wedding soup, brought a tortilla soup based off of an organic recipe. She added chicken and chicken bouillon. The recipe is intended to evoke heat, rather than be spicy. It’s almost a watery chili.

“They said we can’t have chili,” she said. “This is the next best thing.”

Sheila Muhlenkamp competed with the Muhlenkamp Family Navy Bean Soup, a recipe she first picked up “probably from the back of a navy bean package.” She’s developed the recipe, in a sense — “I don’t measure,” she said, “I just throw it all in.” — into a more personalized meal. The secret, she said, is the spices and herbs she adds.

“They give it a real full flavor,” she said.

Tracy Painter, part of Painter Produce, brought a vegetable bean soup made from the family’s crops. The soup is made up, she said, of comfort foods: potatoes, carrots, beans and ham.

Rick Herold brought his Not Your Momma’s Stew, a Latin-inspired chickpea stew using sausage and ham. A good stew, he said, brings flavor.

“You have to have a good popping flavor and it warms you from the inside,” he said.

The cook-off is also a fundraiser for Goshen County’s Backpack Program, and last year raised almost $500.

“That blew me away,” Carter said. “I would have been thrilled if we’d done even half of that.”

This year, the contest raised another $480 for the program.

The winner of the contest is selected by popular vote: for $5, each taster gets a mug and can sample each soup. The winner gets bragging rights and a specially branded apron with the cook-off logo on it, and some farmers market bucks. This year, the GCED team won first place with their Little Italy soup, prepared by Sandy Hoehn, Paxton Bignell and Tami Derr, followed by SAREC’s Tuscan soup in second place, which used some of the research station’s ancient grains in the recipe, and with Herold’s Not Your Momma’s Stew taking third.

Derr described the prize winning soup.

“It’s a spicy, creamy soup,” she said.

Bignell said the apron will be kept in GCED’s kitchen for the office to celebrate their victory.

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