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Meals on Wheels competition brings the cheddar

January 22, 2018

BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Keep calm and get your mac and cheese on.

Local cooks did just that at the Bennington Farmers’ Market’s second annual macaroni and cheese competition. The event was held on Saturday at the First Baptist Church on Main Street and helped raise $600 for Bennington County’s Meals on Wheels, exceeding the organizers’ goal.

Last year, the macaroni and cheese competition raised roughly $400 for Meals on Wheels, according to Audrey Pietrucha, one of the competition’s organizers. Their goal for this year was to raise over $500.

Peter Hopkins, of Pownal, was announced as the winner of the competition. He made “BFM macaroni and cheese,” purchasing all of his ingredients from the Farmers’ Market. As a regular vendor at the market with Hoppy Valley, he wanted to help support his fellow merchants.

“It was so much fun, and I like to cook,” Hopkins said. He appreciated the friendly atmosphere and the bustle of the competition.

Hopkins’ dish consisted of beef short ribs from Hilltop Farm; smoked pork bacon ends from the Saunder’s Family Farm; carrots, leeks, and elephant garlic from Wildstone Farm; tomato jam from the Lunch Box, and shots of brandy. He also included cheddar and gouda from North Meadows Farm, Spatzle from the Vermont Spatzle Company, butter, milk, and flour.

Hopkins returned from last year’s event, where he won third place. Katie Keir and her dish “Katie’s Cheese” took second place and Melissa Frechette took third place with her “Corny Mac and Cheese.”

A $5 entry fee was required for each crock pot that contestants entered, and tickets could be purchased for $1 or $5 for six tickets, for those who attended the market and wanted to try a sample. The tickets also doubled as ballots for samplers to vote on which dish they deemed to be the best.

The competition’s guidelines stated that each dish needed to be crafted from scratch rather than from a box and that each dish needed to have some kind of macaroni or pasta included, in addition to some form of cheese.

Eight people participated in the competition this year, Pietrucha said. The competition had a large number of turnouts last year, which solidified the Farmers’ Market’s decision to hold the event again. Originally, they had held a chili competition before deciding on turning it into a macaroni and cheese competition last year. Over 100 people were estimated to have shown up on Saturday.

Contestants each added their own special flair to the classic dish. One of the dishes had a vegetarian spin, while others incorporated such ingredients as lemon zest; meats, like ham and bacon; pumpkin, and more.

Winners were each granted with a wooden spoon from Manchester Woodcraft, each decorated with a gold, silver, or bronze-colored ribbon. In addition to a wooden spoon, Hopkins also received a $50 gift certificate from King Arthur Flour. Smaller King Arthur prizes were given to those who won second and third place.

Pietrucha said that the Bennington Farmers’ Market holds these events to help bring people into the local market and to make people become aware of the types products that are sold at the market. In addition, they want to help community members become aware that the town holds a farmer’s market.

“I’m always impressed by the generosity of the people of Bennington,” Pietrucha said. “It was especially evident today — we have good people in Bennington.”

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Online: http://bit.ly/2G5N0TF

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Information from: Bennington Banner, http://www.benningtonbanner.com

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