This weekend, a dream I never even knew I had came true: I judged a carrot cake contest at Redhead Days in Highwood, IL. I gave myself permission to ignore my doctor's advice and my (mild) dairy & egg allergies in order to participate, because I couldn't let a few rashes and my throat closing up stop me from from following my newfound dreams.
To prepare, I ate a stomach-expanding lunch of a hamburger, fries and a Coke from McDonald's. I learned stomach expanding is a necessary preparation when I, also via ChicagoNow, competed in an Italian beef eating contest against Kobayashi. (Just how exactly does blogging about redhead fetishists lead me to food competitions anyway? I guess this is the Midwest, where even the strippers and cokeheads are fat.)
Now I'm not entirely sure who exactly decided a carrot cake competition was a good idea. (Well, actually I do, cause the guy who runs the fest has a baker wife who entered the competition.) But fo realz ... first off: carrot tops are green not orange. Secondly, redheads absolutely HATE being told their hair is orange-colored. Third, who the heck actually LIKES carrot cake? Why not red velvet? At least then it's red, like the attendees' hair, not orange. And sweet and velvety, like redheads milky white skin.
But despite the fact that I'd always choose any other kind of cake over carrot cake, I still have a diehard sweet tooth, thanks to my late grandmother, who always made me eat at least two desserts after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Which means that even the sweet desserts I don't like as much as the other ones, I still love more than ANY OTHER FOOD. (Btw is having a sweet tooth a redhead thing? Maybe our bodies know we're evil and crave more sweetness.)
Along with three other actual journalists, only one being a fellow ginge, we took bite after bite until our stomachs hurt and our heads rushed. And then we took more bites. I made sure to take at least four large bites of all cakes, to ensure I thoroughly reviewed each cake.
We blindly sampled 11 cakes from local bakeries and judged based on four factors: presentation, taste, texture and frosting. After a certain point, it became difficult to keep a baseline of scoring. I scored the fifth cake in comparison to the first four, but then some of the subsequent cakes raised the bar in certain categories. It made me realize that Simon Cowell has a tough job. No wonder he's so grumpy all of the time. Personally, I tended to pad the scores, so if I REALLY didn't like the taste of a cake, I'd give it a 22 out of 30 -- still a relatively high score.
The cakes were all different: bundt cakes, jar cakes, cupcakes, cookie cakes, cakes with nuts, cakes without nuts. After the winners were announced, one woman, who I believe was a baker, bewilderingly asked me if I liked nuts on my carrot cake. She must have been shocked her cake did not win the competition and was trying to determine why. Personally, without giving too much away, my favorite cake was probably the one that had tasted most recently refrigerated, which perhaps was an unfair advantage.
While we were eating and scoring, a non-ginge college student hosted and told us interesting facts and stories about redheads. I thought I was a redhead expert, but even I learned something. While I had always known that Thomas Jefferson was a redhead (as I believe was one of his illegitimate half-black children he had with a slave), I did not know that George Washington was also a redhead.
Redhead Days PR rep Becca Hartlieb, also a redhead, told an interesting story about how her mom (not ginger) and her happened to be walking past an adoption festival one day for adopted kids and their families. The hostess invited them in, and when her mom said she was not adopted, the woman asked if she had not told her daughter yet. And then apparently they got into a verbal fight about it, with the adoption festival host fully believing the ginger daughter was adopted, and the mother being angry that the daughter was, in fact, her biological daughter.
That could so easily have been me or my brother, with both our dark-haired parents. Not only that, but our dad also has olive skin! Somehow we were dipped into the recesses of the gene pool.
As for the festival itself, it grew quite a bit since last year. They had a petting zoo, but it wasn't very on brand as none of the animals had red hair. Instead, they had llamas/alpacas (how does one tell the difference?), goats, a very curious and docile cow, and a monkey of some type further caged in (I think it was a baboon?). Upon arrival, I also saw some ponies they were walking away from the festival. It's probably a good thing, because I was really tempted to ask if I would be too much weight to ride them. (Side note: I used to ask for a pony for Christmas every year growing up, and I assumed my mom thought I was being a stupid and greedy little kid. Until recently, when she revealed to me that she actually DID once get a pony as a present when she was little. Harumph. Granted, she grew up on a farm.)
They had more food and drink vendors this year, including a brewery from Mundelein, Tighthead Brewing Company, with a new favorite beer of mine: Chilly Water. They also had a psychics' tent, offering palm, tarot and psychic readings. And while I was there, Paul Mitchell partnered with How to Be a Redhead to braid hair. I really wanted to both get my hair braided (since I suck at doing it myself but LOVE them) and see the psychic, but both were gone by the time I was free to do so. Which is probably a good thing since I'm slowly trying to integrate the Curly Girl Method, and they probably would've used combs/brushes and non-curly girl-approved hair products. So I guess I'll just have to learn to braid on my own.
Anyway, less gingers were present and there was less staring and story-sharing compared to last year, likely because of the rain. Which is ironic considering rain is one of the only times the weather is safe for gingers to come out of the indoors. I also heard less conversations about being bullied or picked on growing up, and less anecdotes about how this was exactly what some little kid without a soul needed to build up his self-esteem. Also, every non-redheaded male who I talk to about the festival always asks me if there are lots of ginger phile men there looking to pick up redheaded women. (Usually, they are projecting.) I did notice one lonesome guy staring at all of our rust-colored locks, but he may have just been waiting for his wife or family (or at least that's what I kept telling myself to help me keep a smile on my face while judging.)
Anyway, thanks to Redhead Days, I now no longer have an excuse to go to the one in the Netherlands. I was happy to be around my people for a bit. And I hope they'll invite me to participate somehow again next year!
So thanks Highwood & Redhead Days for an overall great experience. And a very worthwhile stomach-ache!
Tags: allergy, animals, braids, carrot cake, celebrity, creepy, fast food, food, George Washington, ginger, ginger philes, gingers, hair, Netherlands, redhead, Redhead Days, redophile, Thomas Jefferson