Were Oliver Twist and fellow orphans actual people and not characters from a Charles Dickens novel, they would be right at home in Hays singing "Food, glorious food."
And they wouldn't merely be dreaming about a fantastic dinner. In addition to the multitude of restaurants in Hays, there are tens of thousands of cooks putting on spreads at home every night. And when poor Oliver asks for more, instead of punishment he'd discover food festivals.
There is the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned contest each year that's part of Blues, BBQ and Bargains. There is the Taste of Hays, which benefits the Mary Elizabeth Maternity Home. It has dozens of restaurants participate and regularly nets $25,000. There is the Taste of Downtown which, when held, provides a fun-filled evening of eating and drinking.
There also is the Soup'R Bowl, which has professional and amateur chefs competing for the coveted Golden Ladle Award. The 17th annual version of this cooking contest is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the Ellis County Fairgrounds. Fourteen individuals and teams will have their soups available for tasting by the public.
For $5 admission to the Schenk Building, event-goers receive a spoon, napkin, cups and voting tickets. The tickets are counted to determine the best-tasting soup -- and the eventual winner.
Soup'R Bowl is a fund-raiser for the Humane Society of the High Plains, and popular with soup-makers and soup-tasters alike. Organizers expect 800 to attend today's event.
Soups range from vegetarian to meaty, cream-based to brothy, exotic to fairly tame -- although all will get the tastebuds tingling. In the spirit of full disclosure, The Hays Daily News is sponsoring one of the teams. As voting is relatively anonymous, however, it will be impossible to curry individual favor with us by voting for the White Chicken Chili Soup. (Still, it wouldn't hurt to try.)
We would encourage anybody looking for something to do a full week before the actual Super Bowl to check out the Soup'R Bowl. Tickets are available at the door. Proceeds allow the humane society to take care of their four-legged charges at the Virginia Miller Animal Shelter.
Help ensure the dogs and cats don't ever have to grumble: "All we ever get is gruel."
Editorial by Patrick Lowry