, Muskogee, OK

Local News

January 20, 2013

Soul Food Cookoff pleases palates

Bernice Tharps said the ninth annual Soul Food Cookoff is an exceptional way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“I love the excitement,” Tharps said. “It’s all the people and trying to figure out if you’ll win. It’s a great event for Muskogee, and we’ll keep coming back every year they have it.”

Tharps and her sisters, Clorese Jones, Sharon Lewis and Angela Austin, were all busily serving hungry patrons on Saturday, dishing out their smoked pork roast, brown beans and ham, cornbread and sweet potato pie. To wash it all down, the sisters provided glasses of ice cold sweet tea.

The air in the Civic Center was filled with the smell of Southern “soul” food, and attendees were treated to the best the local cooks had to offer. After purchasing a tasting kit for $10, many of the hungry crowd made a beeline for the main floor of the building, where contestants were situated in a U shape.

Inez Bird of Okmulgee said she brought her father to the event to enjoy the good food and good times.

“This is the sixth year I’ve come out,” she said. “I like to come out to support my sisters, who are contestants. It also brings a lot of races together. The food is delicious, and I haven’t tasted anything I don’t like. We always enjoy it because the people are so friendly here.”

Eugene Grayson, Bird’s father, put his fork down only for a moment to put in a succinct word.

“All I’ll say is it’s good,” he said.

This year’s event featured a celebrity judge in Joe Horn, who played for the New Orleans Saints from 2000 to 2007.

Horn said he enjoyed all the food he got to taste.

“I tasted about 20-25 dishes,” Horn said. “I look for the best seasoned food. I want to taste the seasoning first. If the meat is seasoned well, then when sauce is added, it tastes better. I really appreciate Cassandra Gaines and the town of Muskogee for asking me to be here this year and letting me taste all this delicious food.”

Most participants spend a great deal of time getting their specialty dishes ready for a competition, and Tharps said she was no exception to that rule.

“I started yesterday at 8:30 in the morning,” she said. “I didn’t get to bed until after midnight, then I was right back at it at 5:30 this morning. I like to have everything just right. I take a day off to do this, and it’s relaxing. I enjoy cooking so I do most of it, then my sisters come alongside to help me serve.”

Tharps also said she hoped her smoked pork roast would take home the prize money again this year.

“It’s won before,” she said. “I just hope it can do it again.”

Alisha Tanksley, vice president for the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce, praised Gaines for her work on the cookoff.

“We’ve been here since the first one,” Tanksley said. “We love supporting what she’s done. She’s turned it into a full weekend event. This is a really great event for Muskogee.”

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or tsloat@muskogee

Text Only
Local News
AP Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers

Should a federal judge have the power to strike down Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage?

     View Results
Featured Ads

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.