At 12 years, Mandy Ozment is a girl of few words - so she lets her cooking speak for her.
Mandy, a seventh grader at Washington Middle School, entered one of her recent culinary creations - SPAM noodle soup - in the recent State Fair of Oklahoma and came home with a blue ribbon, $65, an apron and a monogrammed toque proclaiming to one and all that, as kids go, she’s a champion chef.
Plus, she’s now in the running for a $2,000 prize in the national competition.
Dreaming up creative uses for SPAM is nothing new for Mandy.
In fact, it’s something of a family tradition as she follows in the measuring cups of her mother, Jane, and older sister, Erin.
All are accomplished competitive cooks who are willing to work the canned meat product into a recipe when prize money and bragging rights are at stake.
Jane started it all by entering the SPAM recipe competition about five years ago.
She won the state fair contest two years ago with SPAMicotti - a blend of traditional Italian fare - manicotti shells and alfredo sauce - with hickory-smoked SPAM and a smoke-flavored mozzarella cheese.
Then about the time Mandy was dreaming up her first recipe, sister Erin won the kid’s division with SPAM macaroni and cheese.
Mandy recalled how she happened on her winning recipe.
The contest was looming and she needed a recipe. Then one day it happened.
“I was hungry for chicken noodle soup and I remembered that I needed a SPAM recipe. So I came up SPAM noodle soup,” she said.
And that in itself shows quite a lot of ingenuity because, you see, SPAM isn’t something that the prizewinning Ozment cooks care to eat.
“It’s not my favorite,” Mandy diplomatically admits.
In fact, the sole member of the Ozment household who does like it is Mandy’s dad.
“I liked the noodles,” Mandy added.
Like all great cooks, Mandy is more about by gosh and by golly when she’s creating a new dish, often abandoning the measuring spoons for a dash of this, a little pinch of that.
In truth, Mandy prefers making desserts over creating entrees. After all, she got her start in the kitchen baking cookies when she was seven.
She’ll take a break now from cooking with SPAM - as a state winner, she has to sit out the 2013 state contest.
But that just means there are other culinary hills to climb, some on her own and others as her Mom’s sous chef.
Because she has a track record of success there too.
Four years ago, mother and daughter won the overall Oklahoma Beef Cookoff with Apple-a-Day Burger.
“The simple recipes are the ones that win,” said Jane. “The ones that are easy to make. It has to taste good, but it also has to be real easy to make.”
Mandy has put her state fair winnings to good use.
“I’m saving up for an iPod,” she said.
And if she wins the $2,000 national prize?
“I guess I’ll buy more toys,” she said.
“Save it for college,” Mom said.
Mandy’s prize-winning SPAM Noodle Soup:
1 (10.5 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10.5 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 can mixed vegetables
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (12 ounce) can SPAM Classic, chopped
3 cups egg noodles, cooked
Place soups, chicken broth, vegetables, onion, salt and pepper in a large saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until heated through. Stir in SPAM and noodles. Heat 5 to 10 more minutes. Yields: 4 servings.