A Palatable Pastime
Stanstead Township, Victoria Vanier
Last week at the Ayer’s Cliff Fair, Stanstead Township’s Shirley Roy was the winner of the top trophy for Baking for the tenth year in a row. “My mom taught us how to bake. She was a ‘no measurements’ kind of baker; just a little of this and a little of that,”
said Shirley who grew up in Waterville before moving to her husband Philippe Roy’s farm on the Boynton Road forty-four years ago. She then perfected her baking skills in her own kitchen over the years, making home-cooked meals and desserts for her husband and her nine children.
“I also got lots of recipes from my mother-inlaw and my husband’s aunts who are nuns, like the marshmallow roll that people go crazy over at the market,” added Shirley who, besides being the ‘baker to beat’ at the Fair, also sells her home-baked goods at the Ayer’s Cliff Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning.
Shirley first began entering her ‘family favourite’ recipes in the fair about fifteen years ago. “Every year when I get my Fair Book I start looking at all the categories and I decide what I want to do. I’m always really anxious to get my book.”
I asked Mrs. Roy what she entered at this year’s fair and I think I gained a pound just listening to her answer. “I entered some pies: sugar; raspberry; raisin; lemon; strawberry; peach and pumpkin, baking powder biscuits, donuts, both raised and sweet – I won first place for those! I also made date squares, cherry squares, cookies, jelly rolls, zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, lemon bread, banana bread, dinner rolls, whole wheat bread, milk bread and cinnamon buns. I couldn’t make my cherry bread – I ran out of time!”
Shirley’s fair baking schedule is a rigorous one; she wants her baking to be as fresh as possible when it touches the lips of the fair judge. “I start cooking on Wednesday and I cook all day until 10 or 11 at night. I start again Thursday morning and I cook until seven when I go to Derby to play bingo. I’ve got to play my bingo! Then I come home and finish my lemon meringue pies.” A little last minute cooking Friday morning, Shirley’s husband Philippe packs everything up into her van, and Shirley heads to the fair, arriving with little time to spare before the 10 am deadline. “It’s a very tough competition. Last year it was a very close race and I won by just a few points.”
It must be like Christmas in the Roy household on Sunday when the fair winds down and Shirley brings home her baking along with all her red and blue cards, handed out to first and second place entries. “I just put all the baking on my dining room table and called the kids and my sister-in-law over. I made everyone happy,” Shirley said with a smile.
I asked Mrs. Roy, who is also known for creating gorgeous wedding cakes, what she likes about baking. “I like everything really about baking. It’s a pastime that I enjoy. People don’t bake as much as they used to but if they got into it, they might enjoy it too. If I’m tense, I get cooking.”
Practising a pastime that she enjoys so much has been even more important lately for Shirley who is battling bone cancer. “People in my family sometimes tell me that I should rest, but I’ve got to continue to do what I love doing. Once I get into my kitchen and start baking, it takes my mind off everything. And I love bringing my desserts to the Farmer’s Market; it’s like another big family there!”
Shirley Roy, on right, receiving the Baking Trophy of the Stanstead Horticultural Society (from the Ayer’s Cliff Fair) from Society member Vye Danforth. It was the tenth year in a row that Shirley was awarded the trophy.