Savory beat sweet at the Eisenhower State Park “Dutch Oven Cook-Off” Saturday. About 40 park patrons made their way over to Deer Haven Recreational Hall on the site to take in some Thanksgiving-themed dutch oven treats.
While this was the park’s third year for the cook-off, it was the second year that organizers made the day a competition. This is the first year that the savory and sweet foods have been split up.
“Anything you can cook at home, you can cook in these pots,” Eisenhower State Park Ranger John Henson said. “We have been full on the weekends with people at the park. We will have a lot of people here on Thanksgiving. We have a lot of people that do their Thanksgiving dinner at the state parks because it’s just something different. I look forward to being really busy.”
Items the judges sampled included turkey, dressing, pecan pie and sweet empanadas.
“Keep everything contained,” Henson said. “Be safe. Wind has been an issue today so be aware. We do not normally have trouble with animals getting into food unless people have left food out. Do not leave your fires unattended. When there are a lot of people, you will be lucky if you see a bird.
This year there were about 10 entrants and five judges. In past years, there have been about 50 people that attend the meal, but less cookers take on the dutch oven.
“People really like the dressing in the past,” Henson said.
Peggy Kenyon said that she came to the Dutch oven cook-off to sample the turkey and dressing.
“I saw that they were having this on the website and thought I would come out,” she said. “They said that you could come and cook or eat so I decided to come eat.”
Kenyon said that she would like to bring her grandchildren out to the park to hike in the future.
Brenda Watts likes taking her children to state parks throughout Texas. She came to the Dutch oven meal to get out of her camper and enjoy Texoma.
“I am here for the samples,” she said. “I am also staying here at the park. We like to hit a different park once a month. We just stay a few nights. We have a travel trailer. We are out in open air. We get to hike and breathe fresh air instead of city air.”
Watts said that her favorite park is the Martin Creek State Park just west of Tyler. She sampled items at its Dutch oven cook-off not long ago.
“It’s not super small,” she said. “This park is huge and my kids live on electronics. Even before we left out trailer, the kids were on their electronics. We wanted to get out and pick a trail and just see nature. It was also great so be around other people.”