Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

They serve the best food in Minnesota church basements July 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:36 AM
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FOR ALL OF YOU FOODIES out there, here’s a little secret. Some of Minnesota’s best down-home food is served in church basements.

Whether a chicken and ham dinner, an annual lutefisk meal, a soup supper or simply an old-fashioned ice cream social, the faithful serve up some mighty heavenly culinary delights. I know. I’ve indulged—uh, sinfully overindulged—at plenty of these church-sponsored social events.

Take last Sunday, for example, when my husband and I church-hopped from a worship service at the Old Stone Church along Monkey Valley Road south of Kenyon to Moland Lutheran Church several miles further south and west.

“Are you going to the Strawberry Festival at Moland?” a fellow worshiper asks Randy while I’m off shooting photos of the historic stone church.

Moland Church, near the Dodge, Goodhue, Rice and Steele County lines, held its first Strawberry Festival in 1955.

After hearing this man rave about Moland’s festival and how he never misses a dinner there, Randy and I decide we’re heading south. With the clock ticking toward noon, we’re hungry and tempted to eat of the tasty, unforbidden fruit.

However, I secretly question our decision since we picked nearly 20 pounds of strawberries a day earlier and still have about five pounds sitting on the counter at home. We really don’t need more strawberries.

But the promise of pulled pork sandwiches, and for me the promise of getting inside another old country church, entices us to Moland.

I expect the fest to be held outdoors in tents strategically-placed under towering shade trees. But this church, ringed by a graveyard, stands in the full sun, exposed to the elements.

So we head inside, down the narrow stairs to the church basement where tables are crammed together and a serving line awaits us. We both choose a pork sandwich, a generous spoonful of potato salad and two scoops of vanilla ice cream (not homemade; I ask) topped with a mountain of fresh, sliced strawberries.

A sign in the church entry lists the food choices at The Strawberry Festival.

I am surprised at the quantity of strawberries, but shouldn’t be given this is a Strawberry Festival. For $12, we’ve gotten more than enough food to fill our stomachs. The two homemade baby dill pickles I spear onto my plate seal the deal for me.

We weave our way past tables and support posts to a table along the north wall. Despite the din (why is it always so hard to hear in these church basements?), we strike up a conversation with our dining companions, Angie who has driven down from Eagan to visit her aunt and uncle and the aunt and uncle from Owatonna whose names now elude me. They are a cordial trio.

We discuss church dinners, churches, pastors, computers, cursive writing, strawberry picking, diverticulosis (where food gets stuck in pockets of the colon, namely strawberry seeds in the case of the unnamed uncle) and whether it’s OK to eat our strawberries and ice cream before we eat our sandwiches.

We are served a generous amount of strawberries with two scoops of ice cream.

Randy and I agree that sampling our quickly melting ice cream before we finish our savory pulled pork sandwiches is no sin.

Before we part, our new friends make a confession. In a few hours, they’ll drive over to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Claremont for, uh, some strawberry pie.


IN A FUTURE POST, I’ll take you on a photographic journey inside Moland Lutheran Church.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling