Mother, daughter cook up friendly rivalry at fair
By KIM SKORNOGOSKI, Tribune Staff Writer
Great Falls Tribune (Covering Great Falls and northcentral Montana)
August 4, 2005
Louise Hachigian ignores what the other 20 competitors concoct in the wheat and barley cook-off.
All but one, anyway.
"Just her," Hachigian said, holding up her hand to hide who she pointed at. "I like to rock her boat."
Yanking flour, measuring spoons and a mixer out of a plastic storage tub nearby, Aimee Hachigian-Gould just as passionately wants to best her mother.
For the past 20 years, the Ulm women have challenged each other in culinary contests at the Montana State Fair, racking up dozens of ribbons and prizes.
Sunday at the Spam cook-off, Aimee took second; her mom took third.
Louise Hachigian couldn't compete in the fudge face-off Monday, having won the year before. Judges decided Aimee's fudge was this year's best.
Throughout the week, they'll see who's the best with beef, pork, yeast and chocolate cake.
The family hasn't had to buy sugar in five years. They just use the pounds won at the fair.
"Some years you're going to get the blue, some the white, and sometimes you walk," Aimee Hachigian-Gould said. "It's a competition for myself, to see if I can do better than I did last year."
Outside the live daily cook-offs, both women enter jams, jellies, candies and baked treats at the State Fair.
With the clock ticking Tuesday, the two cooked side by side to see whose wheat would reign.
Calling up an old family recipe, Aimee made Armenian lavash, a cracker bread, to dip in hummus and baba ganoush, an eggplant-based sauce.
Louise aimed to please the judges' sweet tooth, baking an apple and almond tort with a wheat-flour crust.
Each woman approaches the competition differently ~W Louise is careful and precise, where her daughter is a bit frantic, shouting orders to her 12-year-old twin sons, Andrew and Brandon, who also competed in the wheat- and barley-a-thon.
Louise came to the Family Living Center with her ingredients measured in jars and containers in three plastic bags.
"I don't wing it here ~W not at competition. At home I do," Louise said. "You can't fool around."
"No fear, ma," Aimee shouts as she races by, a cooler in her hands. "You just can't have any fear."
With just a half-hour to go, Aimee was digging around in her pickup truck for a 3-foot-long, broomstick-thick roller to press her dough so thin you could read a newspaper through it.
Andrew takes after his grandmother in his cooking style, carefully following instructions until the end. Brandon tends to get distracted, Louise notes.
The fraternal twins have a competition of their own, though neither will say who's better.
"It's a draw," Brandon said.
The boys first entered dishes in the fair at age 2, winning their first ribbons the following year.
By 8, they persuaded the culinary department to waive the age requirement and let them cook in one of the live, daily competitions.
"It's part of the fun. It's why I come," Andrew said of the brotherly rivalry.
The boys take sides as to who is the best cook when it comes to their mother and grandmother; Andrew pairs up to assist Louise, and Brandon is his mom's partner in a yeast competition later in the fair.
"I suppose they're really about the same," Andrew said. "My mother was taught by my grandmother, so I suppose it's all the same."
Even in the heat of battle, the mother and daughter lend each other a hand ~W or an ingredient.
Louise dug out a rolling pin from Aimee's storage tub. And late in the contest while waiting for her tart to bake, she casually flipped a piece of her daughter's lavash frying on a grill while Aimee scrambled to roll more dough.
And as she sweated to create an unbeatable tart, Louise stopped to point out her daughter and grandson's ribbons displayed in glass cabinets.
"This is Aimee's, and this is Aimee's," she said, pointing at canned cauliflower and carrots.
Aimee won overall canning this year. Andrew won overall youth. And Louise coyly points out, she won overall candy.
With wheat and barley judging wrapped up late Tuesday, the mother and daughter officially tied for second place. However, judges gave one woman a 92 and the other a 92.3.
To keep the rivalry alive, we won't say who earned what score.
"It's just so much fun," Louise said.
"You're doing it for yourself. I just put my whole heart into it," Aimee added.
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