P71001Somewhere in the San Lorenzo Valley, there is a little old lady who is stitching a blue quilt. It is made of all the blue ribbons that she wins every year at the Jelly and Jam Contest of the Santa Cruz Mountains Harvest Festival. I do not know who she is, but I recognize her squiggly writing on the fancy labels. It is barely legible. Her hands are worn and tired from three quarters of a century off picking fruit, processing it into jelly and jam, and then stitching all her blue ribbons together. She probably giggles as she works, and thinks about everyone who wins only red or white ribbons.

Three years ago, I submitted my blue elderberry jelly and ‘Shiro’ white plum jam into the contest. They both won! Blue elderberry won second place. White plum won third. Two years ago, the blue elderberry jelly won second place again, although the white plum jam did not win anything.

Last year, I submitted the maximum of five jellies and jams. I was determined to get my blue ribbon! In conjunction to blue elderberry jelly and white plum jam, I also submitted peach jam, blackberry jelly and Santa Catalina Island cherry jelly. However, the Jelly and Jam Contest was not publicized like it should have been. Very few people were aware of it. Consequently, there was only ONE other entry! It was a sloppy and seedy strawberry and kiwi jam made from fruit that was not likely home grown. I knew I would finally win my blue ribbon, and probably red and white too! Technically, it was not cheating. It was just the way things worked out.

It was no surprise that the blackberry jelly won third place. It was a bit of surprise that the blue elderberry won second place, even though it had done so twice before. I was hoping that it would be the blue ribbon winner. That was not a problem. I was sure it won second place only because one of the other three had won first place. I stepped off the grandstand after claiming each of the two ribbons, but thought about just staying there for the third. I did the tactful thing and walked off stage.

Finally, the first place winner of the blue ribbon in the Jelly and Jam Contest was to be announced. I was halfway into my first step back to the grandstand when I heard “STRAWBERRY AND KIWI JAM”! What?! How was this possible? What was she putting in that jam?! The winner was not present to claim her ribbon, but she won nonetheless. I imagined her watching with a telescope from the window of her secret hideout in the mountains above town, and laughing maniacally.

Well, the Santa Cruz Mountains Harvest Festival was yesterday. For the Jelly and Jam Contest, I submitted only two entries; blue elderberry jelly and blackberry jelly. There were only four other entries; fig jam, peach jam, another blackberry jelly and the infamous strawberry and kiwi jam. I was pleased that my blackberry jelly won third place, and I still hoped for the blue elderberry jelly to win second or first. The peach jam won second. It was made by . . . WHO? MY MOTHER’S PEACH JAM WON SECOND PLACE?! This was intolerable! I ALWAYS win at least second place! What made it worse is that I lost to my MOTHER’S peach jam! Where did she learn how to make jam? . . . and from peaches from the tree that I grew? Before I could recover from this baffling revelation, the first place winner was announced; and it was again, the strawberry and kiwi jam.

Wow! I do not know what to think. I got to meet the lady who makes the strawberry and kiwi jam. She is not a little old lady who lives in a secret hideout. She is a pretty young lady, and she actually told me that she does not intend to compete next year, and told me that I should try her recipe. I thanked here but declined. I do not want to use store bought produce. Now the difficult part. I need to deliver the second place red ribbon to my mother who was not there to claim it.


11 thoughts on “Blue Ribbon

  1. Congratulations, I once had a blackberry bush (got rid of it before it took the garden over) and would give the blackberries to the neighbour to make jam. I was too lazy to bother and not so good at it. Of course we don’t have such exotic fruits in Switzerland, although if I lived in the Valais area in the south, I would apricot trees growing in the back garden and in the Italian part, the Tessin, they even have kiwis because of their warmer temperatures. That was a fun read and I am sure your mum deserved the prize. I hope you encourage her to compete again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Goodness, I do not need to encourage her! What I did not say in the essay is that I actually submitted the peach jam. I just wanted to get rid of that last jar. My mother is not even here. She is in France right now. When she finds out, she will want me to submit more jam for her next year; which means that my sinister plot to acquire a blue ribbon will fail! When my pa hears about this, he will never let me forget it!


  2. So how can you possibly tell the difference between store-bought and homegrown produce?
    I had the same experience once, in a ski race. There were only three of us in that age group, and the other two fell in the first run. I could have walked down to claim the first prize – LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Contrary to the pictures of abundant strawberries and kiwi in the catalogues that sell plants that produce them, neither strawberries nor kiwis are very productive here. Strawberries are of good quality, but sparse. One would need a very large strawberry patch to grow enough strawberries at the same time to make jam. Also, kiwi vines would need to be very big and very healthy to make more than just a few fruits. I have never seen such vines here.

      Liked by 1 person

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