Issaquah cook wins blue ribbon
August 27, 2013
By Erin Hoffman
Elizabeth Backus’ cooking career began when her father issued her a challenge: “I bet you can’t make a lemon meringue pie.”
Backus, then 12, rose to the occasion. For five consecutive days, she worked on the pie after school, trying to get it right. Finally, on the fifth day, she succeeded.
“When I did it, my dad said, ‘Honey, you finally got it,’” Backus said, and a passion for baking was born.
Backus, who is half Costa Rican and half Spanish, has always been surrounded by food and family.
“I grew up in a family with six kids. My mom is a wonderful cook, and she’s always had us in the kitchen,” Backus said. “When we were kids, we could do whatever we wanted all day, but at five o’clock we had to be in the kitchen for dinner.”
After she got married 20 years ago to Loren Backus, she started cooking more meals, instead of only baking. When her husband succumbed to a brain tumor a year ago, Backus decided to join some cooking groups to help her in her grief. One of the groups she joined was the online cooking community JustAPinch.com, a recipe sharing social network for home cooks.
“I cook because when I cook, I forget about everything,” she said.
In July, Just A Pinch awarded Backus a blue ribbon for the pork carnitas recipe she posted on her profile. The website awards blue ribbons to new and interesting recipes one or two at a time, a few times a month. According to Meaghan Hickey, interactive marketing manager at Just A Pinch, only 2 percent of recipes posted on the site receive blue ribbons, and Backus is the only user from Issaquah to get the award.
“Blue ribbon recipes are the best of the best,” she said.
The recipes are chosen by Janet Tharpe, the food editor at Just A Pinch. When a recipe catches her eye, she tries it out for herself in her test kitchen, and if the dish is good enough, she awards a blue ribbon. Blue ribbon winners get a blue ribbon and a note in the mail, as well as a blue ribbon on their profile.
“Janet tests for taste, easiness and uniqueness,” Hickey said, adding that Backus’ recipe caught Tharpe’s eye because it was meant to be served family-style, encouraging everyone to gather in one place and share their meal together.
Backus said she was thrilled and surprised when she got the email saying she had won.
“Now that I won, I’m going to start putting more recipes online,” she said. “It kind of validated me.”
Backus took time off work after the passing of her husband, and has been considering going to culinary school.
“My husband would always say, ‘You have to have a bakery,’” she said. “Working in a bakery would be like my dream job.”
For now, Backus plans to post more recipes and enter contests, and continues to cook for — and with — her family.
On the Web
See Elizabeth Backus’ winning pork carnitas recipe online at