A Taste of Rim Country is just a few days away. The Library Friends of Payson event is at 5 p.m., Saturday, March 7 at the Payson Public Library. Tickets are $30 each, and a limited number will be sold. To find out more, contact Bessie Tucker, event coordinator at (928) 474-9260.
How do javelina cookies sound?
Not too appetizing.
How about gingerbread cookies shaped like javelinas and twice the size of regular cookies?
That’s better. And that is what former president of the Library Friends of Payson Judy Buettner and five or six volunteers are preparing for the March 7 Taste of Rim Country event at the Payson library.
Buettner, now president of the Northern Gila County Historical Society, offered to help with the library event when the response from area chefs was coming in on the slow side. Now, A Taste of Rim Country has 11 chefs signed up for the big event, sponsored by Library Friends of Payson.
The historical society volunteers participating in the event are all homegrown cooks, Buettner said. They will be baking the javelina gingerbread cookies in the kitchen at the Community Presbyterian Church.
Buettner received her training in the kitchen from her mother, and did most of her cooking while raising her four children and caring for many foster children over the years.
“It was a joy to feed my family something they liked and was healthy for them,” she said.
Their favorite meal was breaded pork chops, mashed potatoes, a vegetable and a cake. This was the meal she usually made for birthdays and other special occasions and the birthday celebrant was allowed to choose the cake that she made.
She learned to cook from her mother, but is learning to cook in a different, healthier fashion these days.
“I like to try recipes from A Taste of Home Healthy Cooking magazine,” she said. Her husband Jim does most of the cooking now, she said.
Looking back to the days when she was the main cook for the family, Buettner said the most complicated dish she made was chicken Kiev from scratch. The hardest part of cooking for her family was knowing how much to prepare. Her children would bring home friends, some foster children would go and others would come. “It (the number of mouths to feed) was always changing,” she said.
Buettner kept the ball in the air though; except for the time she made seven, big apple pies.
“I used that stuff to keep the apples from turning brown and it ruined them. I had to throw out all seven pies,” she said.
“I’m really happy that the historical society is able to help the library friends with this,”
“The more we all work together, the better it is for Payson,” Buettner said.
Very good bread
Expect to enjoy some very good bread at the Taste of Rim Country spread being put out by Steve and Maggie Evans of Verde River Rock House Bed and Breakfast.
The couple gained their sea legs in the kitchen over diverse courses. Maggie has taken a number of cooking classes and has worked in bartending and catering. Steve worked in a restaurant in high school and then went into the Air Force as a cook.
“He says he made eggs every morning for 5,000 of his closest friends,” Maggie said. “So he’s still my egg man.”
Maggie started cooking at a very young age, learning from her grandfather, who was an immigrant from Germany.
“We expect to make a good showing and have a lot of fun,” Maggie said.
She said the couple will probably bring three different items for the event: a hot spinach and artichoke dip with crusty Italian bread, a pesto with olive bread and long-stemmed strawberries dipped in chocolate.
The Evanses have attended the event in the past, but not participated before.
“I catered the artist’s reception for my friend Matalyn Gardner at Artists of the Rim Gallery and someone told me I should enter the Taste of Rim Country,” Maggie said.
“I’ve always enjoyed attending, and it’s a worthy cause.”
The couple enjoys making different dishes for themselves and their guests at their bed and breakfast. Maggie said her favorite dish is either a beef or chicken Wellington and Steve’s is barbecue.
“We use a lot of organic and low-fat ingredients when we cook for our guests and ourselves,” she said.
She also likes to experiment in what she eats. “I had a lobster and macaroni dish at the French Laundry (restaurant) in Napa Valley and have been trying to make it. It’s pretty good. Steve loves everything, but he really likes my version of a Taco Bell burger, which is crumbled ground beef, sour cream, different bell peppers, sautéed onions and cheese on a fresh baked bun.”
Maggie said some of the most complicated dishes she has made include a crab- or lobster-stuffed filet, and when she first started baking with phylo dough.
Cooking with an audience can sometimes be difficult, she said. “They sometimes want to know exactly what you’re doing and I don’t cook like that, or they are so entertaining I lose track of what I’m doing.”
Her advice to someone interested in a culinary career is to enjoy what you’re doing.
“The more you enjoy something, the better it turns out.”