By Sara G. Stephens, Managing Editor, Houston Family Magazine
Yesterday was a good day. As managing editor, I was invited to be a “celebrity” judge at the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council’s annual Just Desserts competition. Just Desserts is an exclusive event designed as a thank you for the Council’s most generous donors and cookie booth vendors.
As a Celebrity Guest Judge, I had the challenging task of judging each of eight unique desserts made from the famous Girl Scout cookies by some of Houston’s finest chefs.
I did not bear this judging burden alone. Each judge was paired with a Girl Scout Assistant to help judge all the tasty creations (that’s tasty with a capital “T!”). It was my pleasure and great honor to enjoy the company of Mackenzie as my judging assistant. A most impressive 4th grader, Mackenzie has been in the Girl Scouts since kindergarten. She arrived at the River Oaks Country Club, where the event was held, with her forearm in a cast–the result of a fall while ice skating. She was quick to tell me the injury has not interfered with her xylophone playing (how cool is that?). Mackenzie is also a student in the Gifted and Talented program at her school. Last year she sold 1,025 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. So far this year she has sold 452 boxes, with sales closing in March.
Besides these outstanding credentials, Mackenzie represents all that’s great about Girl Scouts. She is articulate, confident, happy, inquisitive, respectful, kind, and able to hold her own in conversation with an adult. In short, she made good company.
With great excitement, we bounded from table to table, where each chef and his or her Girl Scout assistant showcased their desserts in anywhere from charming to extravagant table displays. The theme for this year’s competition was Candy Land. Some tables were literal in their decorations, such as Phoenicia’s reproduction of the Candy Land gameboard with delectable 3d representations of Grandma Nut’s house, Lollipop Forest, and Queen Frostine’s palace (this group took the prize for “Best Theme Interpretation”). Other tables took a more interpretive approach, such as Michael’s Cookie Jar’s yellow cake pyramid of ice-cream-cone-sculpted treats, which won the award for Best Table Display. All tables were exquisite.
The treats were equally captivating. Thankfully, the ballots allowed Mackenzie and I each to select our overall favorites: Mackenzie’s was Haven’s chocolate chip Gooey butter bars dessert, which won the “Most Camp Friendly” award. Mine was the Dessert Gallery’s Carmel Delight Truffle, despite its toasted coconut garnish and my not being a huge coconut fan (neither is Mackenzie, but she, too, loved the treat). This team won the “Celebrity Judges Favorite” award. Also noteworthy, in our opinion, was the moist and perfectly frosted peanut butter sandwich cake crafted by Edible Design, which won the “Most Creative Recipe,” and OoLaLa’s dainty parfait-like dessert, made from Lemonade cookies, which won the “Most Delicious” and “People’s Choice” categories. “Best Use of Cookie” award went to Dolce Delights. It would be remiss not to mention another team’s breathtakingly beautiful treats based on the new Girl Scout offering, Mango Cremes. Due to a serious mango allergy, I could not enjoy this dessert. But Mackenzie told me they were delicious. “If there were a category for most beautiful treat, this team would win,” she said.
Needless to say, I left last night’s event with a full and happy tummy. More importantly, I left with a full and happy spirit. The Just Desserts event reminded me of days I feared might be doomed to become a thing of the past, with kids creeping tendencies toward immediate gratification and self-entitlement. But yesterday suggested otherwise, as I observed young girls enjoying simple fun, healthy competition, and rewards for hard work. And the thoughtfulness and careful deliberation applied by my fellow judge, Mackenzie, to each and every entry and category was nothing short of refreshing, as she considered not only the merits of each creation, but also fairness, aspects of social interplay, and, most importantly, the feelings of the judges. I am renewed in faith that, so long as organizations like the Girl Scouts continue to nurture and sculpt the girls of today, we are bound to enjoy a future of capable, sensitive, and successful women for years to come.