Jewel is a grocery store chain in the greater Chicago area. 1982 marked their 50th anniversary. To celebrate this occasion, they announced a contest called “Jewel’s Heritage Recipe Contest.” They were looking for family favorites, preferably 50 years or older, or updated versions of old family recipes. The response was amazing with thousands of recipes submitted, each showing a diversity of cooking styles, ethnic influences, and family backgrounds. After narrowing the field down to 100 entries, the Jewel home economists spent four days preparing, testing, and tasting. They wanted recipes with wide appeal, and ones that people would make over and over again. The final 56 were divided into 6 categories: Grand Prize Winners, Appetizers/Snacks; Salads/Soups, Main Dishes, Breads/Rolls, and Desserts. Each of these categories were then subdivided into “Family Favorites,” and “Family Favorites with a Foreign Flair.”
I was thrilled when my Swedish Apple Cake won first place in the Family Favorites with a Foreign Flair category. Other winning recipes in the contest included Arancini (Sicilian Stuffed Rice Balls), Calzone, Czech Dilled Egg Soup, Puerto Rican Gazpacho Salad, Mom’s Giant Meat Dumpling, Lake Superior Whitefish Cakes, Grandma’s Sweet Potato Bread, and a Bohemian Houska. One person’s name who won for a stuffed flank steak, I recognized as a Pillsbury Bake-Off winner from the 50’s. My prize was a dinner for 20 family members and friends at the famous Don Roth’s Steak House, known for their “Spinning Salad” and big, juicy Chicago steaks. Before the prizes were awarded, Jewel honored the finalists at one of their anniversary events. I had spoken with so many nice people on the phone about my recipe, that I wanted to thank them. Since it was the Christmas season, I made some special sugar cookies that I hand-painted, three of them being the Three Wise Men, which were decorated with their elaborate robes and hats. I took them with me to the event, but made the mistake of putting the cookie tin under my chair. When I went to retrieve them, they were gone. Why would anyone want to steal cookies? I was really mad, not only because I now had nothing to say thank you with to the Jewel people, but I spent hours painting the cookies, especially those Three Wise Men! But the event was very nice, we all felt special, and our recipes were made into the small cookbook shown above, and distributed at all of the Jewel Food Stores across Chicago and the suburbs.
About a year later, I opened the food section of the newspaper and there was my recipe. I couldn’t believe it would still be printed a year later. Upon further reading, I learned it was indeed my recipe, but someone else had entered it in another contest and won $20,000 for it!! Hmmm… free dinner for 20 or $20,000? What do you think?? To say that I wasn’t happy is an understatement, but I didn’t know what to do. Then I read further. The woman who won said the money would pay for a much-needed eye operation for her daughter. Well, that was the end of that. There was no way I was going to do anything. I was not happy someone stole the recipe, but happy that the huge cash prize went to something so imperative. However, sometimes I still wish that the person who stole the Three Wise Men broke their tooth on the decorative silver dragees!