The Marmalade War
||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||annex, avarice, culinary, desist, detriment, drop-off, facilitate, grapple, jelly-makers, jewel-toned, omnipresent, snooty, unseat, censure, composure, deluge
||Paladin County Fair, Sweepstakes Award, New York City, Margaret Bunch, Letitia Dubois, Miss Maggie, Miss Lettie, Judge Juniper, Nancy Arlene, Jessie Marie
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The Marmalade War
By Brenda B. Covert
1 It was the summer of avarice, a time when snoops were considered omnipresent as they sought to uncover the secrets of others. Rural communities were overrun with ambassadors of ill will. It was a time when correspondence of an anonymous nature turned up more frequently in mailboxes, treating recipients of the feminine gender to insults regarding their culinary talents.
2 In short, it was the annual Paladin County Fair. Each summer housewives would wrangle over the honor of winning the Sweepstakes Award, which was given to the individual who won the most first place ribbons in the canned goods competition. Beginning in April when the season's first strawberries appeared, through blueberry, blackberry, grape, peach, pear, plum, and apple season, these earnest ladies began churning out jars of jewel-toned jellies, jams, and preserves. Such was the deluge of jam and jelly entries that it was rumored that the fair could accommodate all of New York City with a toast and jelly breakfast!
3 The top two contenders for the sweepstakes award were always Margaret Bunch and Letitia Dubois. Younger homemakers had often tried to unseat those two veterans to the detriment of their (the young homemakers') sanity. Miss Maggie and Miss Lettie, as the two were known, made frequent stops as uninvited guests at suspected jelly-makers' homes. The trick was to sniff the air upon entering the house. If she detected the aroma of county fair competition, Miss Maggie was likely to say things that weren't true, such as, "Oh dear. I hope you haven't added cloves to your apple butter. It gives Judge Juniper indigestion." Miss Lettie was less kind. On detecting the odor of cooking fruit, she said things like, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I seem to have interrupted you while you were cleaning out the diaper pail." Often their efforts to convince a cook of the inferiority of her skills worked. The inexperienced participant would desist in all efforts to can something worthy of entry in the competition.
4 This summer trouble was brewing. The previous year Miss Maggie had won 38 of the 91 possible canned goods competitions, taking the coveted sweepstakes award as well. Miss Letitia's family had tried to pacify her by exclaiming with pride over the 36 blue ribbons she had won, but she wouldn't have it. "You swindled me out of the sweepstakes award this year," she had yelled at Margaret, "but you won't swindle me again!"
5 Miss Lettie's first plan hadn't displayed her normal mental acuity. "The rules allot each competitor only one entry under each lot number," she had told her three daughters. "If each of you enters one of my jellies, I'll have four entries in each lot!"
6 "Yeah, but if any of the entries in our names win, you won't get the credit or the sweepstakes award," Nancy Arlene, her eldest daughter, said. "Besides, cheating isn't the moral way to win. Don't you want to win the fair-and-square way?"
7 "No! I want to kick Margaret's you-know-what!" Letitia declared, mind racing. "Okay, I guess I'll have to enter more lot numbers than I ever have before. It'll require long hours in the kitchen. Are you girls up for it?"
8 They knew better than to decline to help. "What will you make?" Jessie Marie, the pretty one, asked.
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