My name is Elizabeth Crocker and I am going to tell you about the day I thought I was going to die. It was in September of 2019 at the Washington County Fair Grounds. I had recently moved to Cambridge and my new next-door neighbor, George, was involved with the Washington County Fair. He told me that with a name like Betty Crocker, I would be perfect to judge one of the baking contests. I told him I preferred to be called Liz and I asked him if he was aware that Betty Crocker was a fictional character.
“No, I didn’t, but I don’t think most people know that either and you won’t mind being called Betty for one day. It will be great fun.”
I thought I might get to know some of the people in the area, so I agreed. Wrong decision.
George opened with, “Ladies and Gentleman, we will now have the pie contest and we have our newest Washington County resident to do the judging. Her name is, wait for it, Betty Crocker! She will give the best pie her ‘Betty Seal of Approval’. How about that?”
“We have eight different pies. Betty, take your first bite.”
“Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for that warm welcome. The first pie is a raspberry pie. Raspberry was my father’s favorite and I had it often when I was a kid so I know what a good one tastes like. The crust is flaky and moiste. The berries are sweet. Nice job!
Pie Number 2 is a grape pie. I have never had a piece of grape pie and truthfully did not know there was such a thing, so this will be a new taste sensation for me. Whoever made this pie also covered the top with grapes. Argh, there is something wrong with this pie! My mouth is burning. My throat feels like it’s on fire.”
“Somebody get the EMTs!” George yells.
A woman and a man ran to the judging stand from the First Aid tent. The woman yells, somebody give me some water and some ice. A man handed her his bottle of water.
“Rinse your mouth out with this. Just spit it on the ground. Do it again.”
“My throat still hurts.” I tell her.
“Swallow some water and rinse your throat.”
“That helps, but my mouth and lips are still burning.”
“Suck on some ice. Are you nauseous?” She asks.
“I think you were poisoned by those berries, but you only ate a couple and you will be all right. By the way, my name is Susan.”
“Thank you, Susan. Those aren’t grapes?”
Susan told me that the berries were from a Virginia creeper and they contain oxalate crystals. Her grandmother grew Virginia creepers so she recognized the fruit. She also told me that her childhood dog tried to eat a peace lily plant of her mother’s. It too contained oxalate crystals. He began to drool, bark hoarsely and started pawing at his mouth. Her parents rushed him to the vet’s and he flushed his mouth with water. The dog recovered and was sent home.
I felt better, but no way was I going to continue with the contest.
“George, I am done here. I am going home to rest.”
At that moment, an elderly woman came forward. She was wringing her hands and perspiring. “Mrs. Crocker, I am so sorry this happened to you. I am afraid it was my fault. Pie number 2 was mine.”
George screamed at her. “What were you thinking? Don’t you know that those berries are toxic?”
She started crying. “I know what Virginia creeper berries look like and I know you shouldn’t eat them. I made my pie with grapes. I was in a hurry to get here and my granddaughter asked if she could put some berries on top of the pie to make it look pretty. The pie was in a box and I just brought it here and left it with the check-in people. I never looked inside.” At that point she collapsed on the ground.
Susan sprang into action again checking the woman’s pulse and blood pressure while talking to her calmly. Her partner handed her some smelling salts. She said “All’s well that ends well. Betty will be fine and I think this was an honest mistake. Mrs. Miller had no reason to harm anybody, especially Betty. Let’s all move on.”
I just wanted everyone to stop calling me Betty.