They were smoking more than beef, pork and chicken in this week’s Iowa Farm Bureau barbecue contest at the State Fair. Richard Garrels of Mount Pleasant was grilling elk tenderloin. (shown in picture above)
Garrels put nuts, fruits and native flowers around the meat to show what might have been gathered on the Mormon trail that snaked through southern Iowa. Iowa’s early European settlers did hunt for and eat elk. “We think it looks as authentic as we’re going to get and it still is as nutritious and low-fat/low-cholesterol as it was in the 1880s,” he says. “It’s fairly quick and certainly a healthy alternative.”
But the Farm Burea’s master chef contest is much more than just a food competition. Contestants get points for showmanship, and that’s one reason for fancy place-settings, or in Garrel’s case, a rustic fence topped by a saddle sitting next to his barbecue. Garrel raised the elk he cooked and used the elk’s hide to make a buckskin costume — with buttons carved from elk antlers — that he wore for the event. “It’s just kind of fun being at the state fair,” he said.
Robert Molkenthin of Ollie picked a 1950s theme for his entry. It allowed him to slick his hair back and roll up a real pack of cigarettes in his white t-shirt sleeve. “Bad habit,” Molkenthin said of his cigs. It’s his third entry in the State Fair competition, and he cooked pork chops. He also recruited four women, including his sister, Beverly, who dressed ’50s-style with the poodle skirt. The outfits also featured saddle shoes and those “cat-eye” glasses.