Showtime for cooks

EMMA DANGERFIELD
Last updated 11:28 23/01/2013
Robyn Collins
Emma Dangerfield
Cooking up a storm: Robyn Collins has a long involvement with the A&P Show and she hopes to see more young people taking part to ensure its long-term success.

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The Kaikoura A&P Show is in her blood and four generations of her family have been involved over the years.

Robyn Collins insists she is far from being the world's best cook, but this has not stopped her entering a range of categories for the past 15 years and she is now preparing her entries for this year's show, on February 23.

Robyn is a keen advocate of the show and knows part of its success comes from people having a go and entering their baking, pickles, flowers and vegetables, among other things.

It's easy to do, she says, and it makes the show that much more enjoyable when you make yourself a part of it.

Her entries in the home industries, cooking, handcraft, flowers and produce sections each year have not always been the best, but she will always make sure she enters something in each. Her particular penchant is for jams and bottled fruits, and she also enjoys whipping up her mother's spaghetti sauce recipe.

"I just enter whatever veges I've got in the garden at the time," she says.

"And my father-in-law [Alan Collins] who is 84 today [Monday] has entered fruit and veg pretty much every year. He will be out there scrubbing and washing his potatoes for weeks before the show and sizing them up."

Robyn always encouraged her three daughters to enter over the years, knowing how important it is to the show's success. They were encouraged to enter anything, from animals to cooking and sewing, while her husband's family always showed cattle.

"I think it's important to have that push from the parents. I got more involved to show, it's not all about winning. And gosh I've had some failures!"

But regardless of whether you win or lose, it is nice to look around entries which you were a part of, or alternatively to look at others' work and figure out where you went wrong. Last year's pudding challenge was a classic example of this - Robyn had six attempts at it before she managed to produce the correct result.

And the skills are ones that can be transferred to everyday life, making items from things you already have to hand.

These are skills which may be a dying art, but which could be used by many families to save money, she says.

"I come from a big family and it was the only way mum could afford to feed us. We used to milk our own cow, make our own butter and cheese, and that's what we were taught. You can do an awful lot of baking for the price of a couple of packets of biscuits - and it's really not that hard."

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While it sounds like a good deal of work, Robyn insists it does not take that much time to prepare entries.

"You just think ‘today's the day for baking' and that's what goes - unless you burn them of course."

This year's schedule has changed from previous years and Robyn believes it appeals to the younger cooks more, with lollie cake, chocolate eclairs, brownies and a stack of pancakes just some of the new categories. She would love to see more young people rise to the challenge - in fact she is so keen to see children and teenagers take part that she is offering a special prize to the young person with the most entries on the day.

"I have had a real pleasure doing it over the years but I would really love to see kids coming through and taking part. It would be especially nice to see the 12 to 20 age group participating. It's lovely to enter - you get a real buzz from it."

Entries close this Friday for most of the categories so it is not too late. If you are a child or teenager and know how to whip up a brownie or gingerbread man, why not make this year the first to become involved? You never know, you might just win a prize. And if not, you may just learn a trick or two for the next year.

- Kaikoura Star

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