Kim Turlich-Vaughan is President of the Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival (www.orangefestival.com), the annual citrus fruit celebration which takes place this year Dec. 5-7 at Fort Jackson in Buras. Turlich-Vaughan spoke with Gambit about the festival's history, kumquat stuffing contests and citrus-infused desserts.
How did you originally become involved with the Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival?
Turlich-Vaughan: I became involved in the festival about 30 years ago. I started off helping to select our orange queen, got on the board and helped to run the pageant portion of the festival. I advanced to the presidency three or four years ago.
I always attended the festival as a child; it was the highlight of our year. It's near and dear to my heart that I've been able to be involved for so long. It showcases everything about the parish, not just our citrus fruit heritage — hunting, fishing, the oyster industry and the seafood industry.
The orange trees are looking really good this year, according to the local farmers. They've already been producing citrus. I have a couple of friends who are farmers who have already dropped off bags of satsumas to me. They're very sweet and juicy this year. We should have a very good crop.
What are some of the food-related competitions at the festival?
T-V: We have queens that come from all over the state to promote their festivals. After they are presented on the main stage, we have contests for them, the biggest of which is the kumquat stuffing contest. We will give each of the visiting queens a container of kumquats and they see how many they can stuff in their mouth. It's pretty interesting because you have this wide-open mouth with all these little orange balls sticking out. We've gone up to 38 and 40 in their mouths. The girls thoroughly enjoy that and it's a cute event.
We do the longest peel [contest], which we also do with the general public. The longest peel would almost go between 36 and 38 inches, because once you get those people who know how to peel really well, it can get really long. We have the citrus eating contest where they get a number of [citrus] — kumquat, satsuma and navel orange — and see who can eat that the fastest.
At one point, we've had the cutest peel, where someone made a decorative peel and we judged that as well. On Sunday afternoon, we also have some adult games: duck calling, shrimp peeling, catfish skinning.
What's your favorite dish to make with local citrus?
T-V: When I go on news stations, I usually do a dish and my favorite has been a navel orange bread pudding. It's really delicious. It's between that and orange squares — like lemon squares — made with satsuma juice. My daughter did that last year and won first place in the citrus contest. Things that we can incorporate our fresh citrus juices into are the highlight, really. — SARAH BAIRD