When I first moved to the Appalachian mountains, bake sales were not an unfamiliar activity to me. However, I was not prepared for how fundamental bake sales are to the small local communities here in the mountains. Bake sales here are a major fund-raising event. It is not unusual to see a new bake sale almost on a weekly basis.
My first experience with a bake sale I can remember quite vividly. It was in Michigan and I was only 7 or 8 years old. The bake sale was being sponsored by the local high school to raise money for the drama club. There were 3 tables filled with every type of cookie imaginable. To my young mind I was in heaven.
My mother had paid a set fee for a spaghetti dinner and then everyone was welcome to help themselves to some cookies. My mother was mortified when on the way home from the dinner she heard me crunching cookies in the backseat. I had taken my play purse and filled it full with the sugary treats. When asked why I would do such a thing I responded, "There were just so many to choose from I decided to take some home to try later."
After growing up and leaving home I had another memorable experience with a bake sale. This time I was in Louisiana living near the Army base, Fort Polk. My ex was a military man and his unit had decided to have a bake sale to raise money for the family readiness group.
I had signed up to sell a few things at the bake sale but the person in charge then promptly gave me a detailed list of the rules of bake sales. Basically it said everything made had to be finger foods and individually wrapped. There was also a specified list of how many you should bring. There were so many rules hardly anyone showed up to sell anything and those who did only made a few dollars.
After moving to the heart of the Appalachian mountains I could see things here would be different. Bake sales here contain foods made from scratch with a lot of love. The variety available is astounding as well. Recently, the county supervisors in my area held a bake sale that served home cooked greens, corn bread, fried chicken, and soup beans. A classic meal here in the south. People paid a few days in advance for the meal and then a few days later it was delivered to their home or to where they worked.
Lions clubs, Kiwanis, girl scouts, and other local organizations in the south like to use bake sales to raise funds for programs and activities. Some use the challenge of cooking with locally known ingredients; such as kudzu, ramps, or dry land fish; to help draw in crowds and raise more money.
Next time you find yourself in the south keep an eye out for some local bake sales and the wide variety of tasty southern culinary treats.