If you love Moon Pies, then Duke Homestead (www.nchistoricsites.org/duke) in Durham is where you need to be on Saturday. A Moon Pie-eating contest—you need eat only five in a very brief amount of time—will be held at the historic site as part of its annual Tobacco Harvest and Hornworm Festival.
"Historically, market time was a time of celebration in town and a Moon Pie and RC Cola were a traditional snack," says Mia Berg, an Assistant Site Manager at Duke Homestead. "It's what you associated with going to town, going to market."
The competition begins at 2:30 p.m.; register at the festival. Children under 12 can participate, but they have to eat just one Moon Pie.
Duke Homestead is where Washington Duke first grew tobacco; the festival features demonstrations of the crop's processing, harvesting and the auction. Local blues guitarist and singer John Dee Holeman also will perform at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
The festival is free. In addition to Moon Pies, hot dogs, barbecue and other foods will for sale.
When it comes to food contests, if slow and steady is more your speed, head for Shakori Hills in the Chatham County community of Silk Hope on Saturday, Sept. 15, for its annual Hoppin' John Cook-Off. The competition is part of its Hoppin' John Old-Time and Bluegrass Fiddler's Convention (hoppinjohn.org).
The festival itself will take place September 13 through 15, and include musical competitions, performances, dances and workshops. But the cooking contest won't get started until early Saturday. To participate, entrants can purchase a day pass ($12) or one for the entire festival ($22). You must bring all ingredients and cooking equipment—from pots and pans to butane burners—to the event site.
To qualify as hoppin' john, Shakori requires that a dish contain rice and black-eyed peas. Otherwise, recipes can run the gamut, with a minimum of six quarts required.
Cooking ends by 5 p.m., at which time dishes can be sampled and evaluated by fellow festival attendees (for $3). First prize brings with it $50, bragging rights and a golden skillet. For runners up, second place affords $35, and third place, $25.
Freelance journalist Johanna Kramer, who writes the popular blog Durham Foodie (johannakramer.com) has published The Food Lover's Guide to Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill (Globe Pequot, 328 pages, $14.95). It is one in a series of food lover's guides to cities' culinary offerings. Follow Kramer on Twitter @durhamfoodie.
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