Tai Linkous, 69, talented cook won dozens of awards at Md. State Fair

August 15, 2004|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

Tai Linkous, a queen of the kitchen who racked up more than 100 prize ribbons in cooking and baking contests at the Maryland State Fair, died of a heart attack Aug. 8 at her Glen Arm home. She was 69 years old.

After she started competing at the Timonium fairgrounds in 1987, Mrs. Linkous, born Theis Schermerhorn, won awards for everything from cakes to candies and from jams to Spam. She so dominated contests for the next eight years that she ran out of room for ribbons on her kitchen wall and fair authorities eventually asked her to step aside and let others have a chance.

She agreed, and became a contest judge.

"She won so many ribbons, they wouldn't let her [compete] anymore. There wasn't anything more she could make," said her sister Anne Morris of Paradise, Calif.

Mrs. Linkous picked up her culinary talent as one of eight children growing up on a farm in Idaho. Her mother disliked cooking, so she and her four sisters shared the cooking duties, thus being spared the farm work their brothers were doing, she recounted in a 1996 interview with The Sun.

"I preferred the kitchen to the barn," she said at the time.

Mrs. Linkous moved to Towson about 1970 with her husband, Joseph Cochran, who was employed at Teledyne Energy Systems. A previous marriage ended in divorce. After Mr. Cochran's death in 1973, she married Guy Linkous, a Teledyne employee who had lost his wife in 1977.

Mrs. Linkous worked for various employers as an executive secretary, but her kitchen artistry remained her true vocation. Even before she started competing, she exhibited her goods at the dinner parties she would hold as often as four times a month. A standard menu would include apricot-stuffed pork tenderloin, cream of green chili and pear soup, and raspberry-chocolate cheesecake layered with chocolate cream icing, according to the 1996 article.

"It was always an honor to be invited to her home," said her sister.

Despite her cooking flair, Mrs. Linkous couldn't abide the term gourmet or other culinary affectations, a trait she shared with her role model, Julia Child, who died five days after she did. She gave fairground demonstrations on "magic with refrigerator dough" and was proud of her creations for the fair's Spam competition: one encased the product in a puff pastry with Swiss cheese and honey mustard; another was a two-crust brunch pie with spinach and ricotta cheese.

Mrs. Linkous was best-known for her hand-dipped chocolates - the only creation for which she refused to divulge the recipe. Her husband looked forward to the days when the dipping didn't go well, because he got to eat the rejects.

In addition to her cooking, Mrs. Linkous was active with Meals-on-Wheels and organizations for battered women and children, her sister said. She also enjoyed golf and rooting for the Redskins and Orioles.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road, Towson.

In addition to her husband and sister, she is survived by her daughter, Tamara Lapetina of Middle River; a stepson, Bob Linkous of Frederick; three other sisters, Naomi Huey, Maureen Chinn and Kathleen Devine, all of Washington state; three brothers, Eugene and Byron Schermerhorn, both of North Carolina, and Wayne Schermerhorn of Oregon; and six grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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