Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Wheeling Township, Part I: The season of Minnesota church dinners September 26, 2017

Long-time Germanfest kitchen staff, Lynn, left, and Elsie.

 

AUTUMN MARKS THE SEASON of church dinners and festivals in Minnesota. In fellowship halls and church basements, you will find some of the best homecooked food. Food of the land. Potatoes peeled and mashed. Squash scooped of seeds and baked. Bone-in-ham savory and heavenly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An abundance of food fills plates, satisfying the belly and the soul. Menus vary from congregation to congregation with ethnicity, location and tradition determining food offerings. At St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, parishioners serve an authentic German meal at the annual late September Germanfest. Several years had passed since I attended this dinner, one of my favorites among Faribault area churches.

 

Diners park their vehicles around the cemetery next to the church.

 

 

 

 

Baby Lucy and her grandpa listen to the Ray Sands Combo.

 

Here in this rural setting, with old-time bands pumping out polkas and waltzes just outside the dining hall, hundreds gather for food and fellowship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And bingo,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a quilt show,

 

 

 

 

 

 

petting zoo,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

market, polka service and more.

 

 

 

Randy and I whiled away the last September Sunday afternoon here, crammed first into the fellowship hall eating sauerbraten and brats, German potato salad (and yes, mashed potatoes and gravy for those who prefer that potato choice) and an assortment of German sides with Black Forest cake, apple kuchen and bread pudding for dessert—as if we needed three desserts. But it’s impossible to pass on such sugary goodness.

 

 

 

 

This event, as are all church dinners and festivals, is about more than food. It’s about family and friends and good conversation and laughter and delighting in the bounty of the earth. It’s about hard work—laboring in the kitchen, selling tickets, grilling brats, tending quilts and animals, and an entire long list of volunteer duties. It’s about a sense of community, a coming together, a communion of sorts with the land, with this place, with these people. In the season of autumn.

 

TELL ME: Do you attend church dinners and festivals? If so, feel free to recommend one here.

 

Check back for several more posts from St. John’s Germanfest including some endearing photos of a budding musician and of a family photo shoot.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Serving up kraut at a Minnesota “feed” July 7, 2016

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HOW DO YOU DEFINE feed?

In Minnesota, the word can typically be defined as an event in which large numbers of people are served food by a group of volunteers aiming to raise money for a cause. Not exactly a Webster dictionary concise definition.

This sign is posted at the intersection of U.S. Highway 14 and Minnesota State Highway 4 in downtown Sleepy Eye.

This sign is posted at the intersection of U.S. Highway 14 and Minnesota State Highway 4 in downtown Sleepy Eye.

Often the featured food reflects the ethnicity of the region. Take, for example, the Eagle’s Kraut Feed slated for tomorrow at the Servicemen’s Club in Sleepy Eye. This southwestern Minnesota community has a strong German heritage. That would explain the Kraut Feed menu of all you can eat sauerkraut, dumplings, mashed potatoes and gravy, Landjagers (sausage), applesauce, bread and coffee and/or milk.

Even though I’m 100 percent German and do eat sauerkraut, I don’t like dumplings or sausage. But apparently a lot of folks do.

Downtown Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, photographed on July 2.

Downtown Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, photographed on July 2.

While searching online for info about the July 8 Kraut Feed, I also read that the Servicemen’s Club hosted a Ring Bologna Feed in February and a Bullhead Feed in March. I’m not surprised. I grew up in the county next to Sleepy Eye and my mom cooked both. I wasn’t fond of either ring bologna or bullheads. But those locally-sourced (from our farm and nearby School Grove Lake) cheap foods fed our family of eight.

Sleepy Eye's Del Monte plant, located on the west edge of town along U.S. Highway 14.

Sleepy Eye’s Del Monte plant, located on the west edge of town along U.S. Highway 14.

In August, Sleepy Eye will serve free buttered sweet corn at its annual Buttered Corn Days. That event connects to the local Del Monte company, a community fixture since 1920. According to the Del Monte website, the Sleepy Eye plant “produces the largest case quantities of peas and corn for the company, planted by over 300 different growers on more than 26,000 acres.” That and the employment of up to 400 seasonal employees are good enough reasons to host a free community sweet corn feed.

TELL ME: What types of feeds are popular in your area? Or what is the most unusual feed you’ve come across and/or attended?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Calling all lutefisk lovers to Vang Lutheran Church October 6, 2014

Vang Lutheran is set among the farm fields of Goodhue County. The name "Vang" means field. Vang is a region of Norway from which the areas first settlers arrived.

Vang Lutheran is set among the farm fields of Goodhue County. The name “Vang” means field. Vang is a region of Norway from which the area’s first settlers arrived.

JUST DAYS BEFORE THE 34th annual Lutefisk and Norwegian Meatball Supper at Vang Lutheran Church, rural Dennison, the ladies were busy prepping Saturday morning.

A sign inside Vang Lutheran Church advertised its annual Lutefisk & Meatball Supper.

A sign inside Vang Lutheran Church advertises its annual Lutefisk & Meatball Supper.

Plates are stacked on the kitchen counter.

Plates are stacked on the kitchen counter awaiting diners.

Lists have been made with assigned jobs.

Lists have been made with assigned jobs.

Church ladies bring bowls from home.

Church ladies bring bowls from home.

Dishes and bowls stacked. Counters covered in plastic. Floors scrubbed. Lists in place. Folding chairs ready to unfold. Beet preserves and pickles already in the country store, made with produce from the Vang-Dennison Lutheran Church parishes’ Growing Connections Garden. Vinegar stashed in the fridge for coleslaw.

An empty lutefisk bucket from a previous supper.

An empty lutefisk bucket from a previous supper.

The lutefisk hadn’t arrived yet from Mike’s Lutefisk in Glenwood, Minnesota. But this Norwegian Lutheran church is ready for the 1,150 pounds that will feed 1,200 diners on Wednesday, October 8.

Beautiful stained glass windows grace the sanctuary.

Beautiful stained glass windows grace the sanctuary.

Not quite the 5,000 Jesus fed, but a seeming miracle for this congregation of 300 members—with a weekly attendance of 70 – 90—to prepare and serve this ethnic feast.

A view of the sanctuary from the balcony.

A view of the sanctuary from the balcony.

On the menu are lutefisk, Norwegian meatballs and gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, cranberries, coleslaw, rolls, fruit soup, lefse, Norwegian bakings and beverages.

To feed that many requires 1,150 pounds of lutefisk, 550 pounds of meatballs, 200 pounds of butter (presumably for all that lutefisk), 600 pounds of potatoes, 36 gallons of corn, 110 pounds of coleslaw, 20 gallons of cranberry sauce, 20 gallons of fruit soup, 4,500 cups of coffee (Norwegians must drink a lot of coffee), 600 half-pints of milk, 2,600 pieces of lefse, 90 dozen buns and 2,600 Norwegian bakings.

Uffda.

Diners will receive info about Vang and its annual supper.

Diners will receive info about Vang and its annual supper like these informational sheets photographed in a basket.

Mid-day servings are at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. by reservation only. Call the church office at 507-645-6042.

Continuous evening serving runs from 4 – 7:30 p.m.

Cost is $16 for adults; $6 for 10 and under; and free for preschoolers.

The picturesque Vang Lutheran Church was built in 1896.

The picturesque Vang Lutheran Church was built in 1896.

Vang Lutheran Church, 2060 County Road 49, is located at  the corner of Goodhue County Road 49 and 20th Avenue, which is southeast of Dennison or seven miles northwest of Kenyon.

I won’t be there. I don’t like lutefisk. But apparently plenty of people do.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating my community’s many cultures at International Festival Faribault August 21, 2014

IN A SOUTHERN MINNESOTA COMMUNITY which is growing ever more diverse, the need for understanding among cultures seems not an option, but a must.

A Somali family waits to cross a street in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

A Somali family waits to cross a street in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

If we’re to live and work and play in the same town, then we need to meet one another, to educate ourselves, to be open to the differences that define us.

International Festival Faribault presents an opportunity to do just that from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. this Saturday, August 23. Via music, ethnic food, art, children’s activities and more, the cultures of our diverse community will be showcased and celebrated in Central Park.

Several Latinos lead in singing of Mexico's national anthem last September during the International Festival Faribault at Faribault's Central Park.

Several Latinos lead in singing of Mexico’s national anthem during a previous International Festival Faribault at Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

At the hour-long flag ceremony, which begins at 11:30 a.m., the flags and national anthems of 18 nations, from the U.S. to Somalia, South Sudan, Mexico and more will be presented. It’s a moving ceremony that visually impresses the diversity of those who call Faribault and the surrounding area home.

A Mexican dish (help me out if you know, but I think tortillas) was wrapped in banana leaves. My husband and I tried this.

A Mexican dish wrapped in banana leaves. My husband and I tried this at a past fest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And then there are food booths, where you can sample ethnic dishes from countries like Somalia, Honduras, Norway and more.

Lul Abdi shows off beautiful wood crafts from Kenya and Somalia.

Lul Abdi shows off beautiful wood crafts from Kenya and Somalia during a past fest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Others will vend native art.

Served at the 2011 fest: Guatemalan chuchitos-- chicken, corn and salsa wrapped in a corn husk.  You'll find numerous vendors offering a variety of authentic international foods.

Served at the 2011 fest: Guatemalan chuchitos– chicken, corn and salsa wrapped in a corn husk. You’ll find numerous vendors offering a variety of authentic international foods. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I’ve attended this festival several times and each time have left with a better understanding of my neighbors. The key is to visit with folks who are from a country other than your own. Don’t just buy a chuchito or a tamale or some other food and walk away. Chat it up with the vendor.

Faribault High School seniors Shukri Aden, left, and Khadra Muhumed.

At a past fest, I spoke with then Faribault High School seniors Shukri Aden, left, and Khadra Muhumed. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I am convinced that personal connections are the key to understanding and overcoming the barriers that separate cultures.

Conversation and connecting..., no other words necessary.

Conversing and connecting at a previous fest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Long-time residents and newbies alike must reach out to one another to bridge the gaps of misunderstandings and preconceived notions that exist. And they do. Exist. I hear the prejudicial comments way too often. We must learn to respect one another.

That same little boy who was so intently focused on the musician.

One of my favorite fest portraits. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

It is the kids who give me the most hope. They don’t seem to notice the differences in skin color, language and culture. And they are a primary focus of International Festival Faribault. The local United Way will give away children’s books. There will be a children’s dance performance and a bouncy tent.

Happy children all focused on the same goal: breaking the pinata.

Happy children all focused on the same goal: breaking the pinata near the Central Park Bandshell. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

But the highlight, in my opinion, is the breaking of piñatas at 3:30 p.m. I’ve witnessed this event several times with children of many ethnic backgrounds standing side-by-side. Their smiles are wide. And so are those of the adults observing how piñatas can bring together cultures. Together.

A member of Ollin Ayacaxtli dances at Faribault's International Market Day celebration.

A member of Ollin Ayacaxtli dances at a past fest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Here’s a schedule of festival events:

10 – 10:45 a.m.: Otto & Celia, Hispanic singers on keyboard
10:45 – 11 a.m.: Selvia, Guatemalan dancer
11 – 11:30 a.m.: Ollin Ayacaxtli Aztec Dancers
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Flag ceremony
12:30 – 1 p.m.: Children’s dance performance by Florecitas de Dios
1 – 2 p.m.: River Mill Band performs (combination of newgrass and folk)
2 – 3 p.m.: South Sudanese music and dancers
3 – 3:30 p.m.: Hula hoop performance by Adrienne Lee & Jugglers
3:30 p.m.: Breaking of piñatas and end of silent auction

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata.

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Additionally, non-profits will be at the festival to focus on immigrants. Rice County Public Health will give guided tours of the Faribault Farmer’s Market (also happening at the park during morning hours) in Somali and Spanish. The American Association of University Women will offer children’s activities. HealthFinders Collaborative, the Faribault Diversity Coalition, Greater Upper Nile Community Services & Development and more will also be at the fest. A silent auction features about $3,000 in donated items.

To learn more about International Festival Faribault, click here. And then click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thinking lutefisk season already August 20, 2014

IT’S NOT TOO EARLY to start thinking lutefisk and meatballs.

That is if you eat lutefisk, a Norwegian delicacy of cooked cod that has been soaked in lye.

I know. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? I’ve eaten it twice, once when covering a church basement lutefisk dinner as a young newspaper reporter.

The second time I sampled this fish out of respect for my Norwegian aunt whose maiden name is Knudson.

I didn’t like lutefisk either time. Tastes like warm Jell-O. Smothering it with lots of melted butter does help. A bit.

Whether or not I like lutefisk or meatballs matters not, though, because I’m German, not Norwegian. I don’t have to eat the stuff.

Vang Lutheran Church

Vang Lutheran Church. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

But for those of you who appreciate lutefisk, mark your calendars for the Wednesday, October 8, annual Vang Lutheran Church Lutefisk and Norwegian Meatball Supper. Vang is located 10 minutes north of Kenyon or east of Nerstrand with a County 49 Boulevard address. That’s in Minnesota, where, of course, many Scandinavians live.

I photographed Vang Lutheran Church across the cornfield west of the Potpourri Mill Log Cabin 10 minutes north of Kenyon.

Vang Lutheran Church sits among the farm fields of southeastern Minnesota, near Kenyon and Nerstrand. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And these Norskes love their lutefisk so much they’re already advertising the October church dinner in August. I spotted this sign and reminder slips with peppermints last weekend at a garage sale in Kenyon:

I spotted this sign at a garage sale in Kenyon.

I spotted this sign at a garage sale in Kenyon.

Have you eaten lutefisk? What’s your review of this Norwegian culinary specialty?

CLICK HERE TO READ a blog post about Vang’s lutefisk dinner written several years ago by a master of divinity student.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Kommen Sie for a taste of Deutschland in Faribault November 2, 2013

Arroz con pollo tastes much better than it looks.

Arroz con pollo, a Latin American dish of chicken and rice seasoned with fresh garlic, onions, red peppers and cilantro. The perfect comfort food as Minnesota transitions into winter.

EVERY YEAR ABOUT THIS TIME, I find myself craving comfort foods. Homemade mac and cheese. Beef roast and mashed potatoes. Steaming bowls of soup laced with thick chunks of vegetables. Fiery chili. Even hotdish.

Sliced strawberries, cucumbers and Amablu Gorgonzola cheese added to Romaine lettuce made a perfect salad. I topped the salad with lemon poppyseed dressing.

Sliced strawberries, cucumbers and Amablu Gorgonzola cheese added to Romaine lettuce make a delicious salad, often a meal for me during the summer months.

I eat fewer salads, place less fresh produce in my shopping cart, fight the urge to bake cookies.

The cycling of the seasons, transitioning into the long, dark and cold days of winter in Minnesota, imprints upon my body and psyche. Call of comfort foods. Snuggling on the sofa under a fleece throw, book in hand. Limited trips outside the house once the curtain of cold and darkness falls upon the land.

The German meal: sauerbraten and spaetzle on the left, German potato salad, sweet and sour cabbage, dinner roll and sauerkraut and brats.

The German meal: sauerbraten and spaetzle on the left, German potato salad, sweet and sour cabbage, dinner roll and sauerkraut and brats. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And so this seems the perfect time to partake of the food of my forefathers at Cannon Valley Lutheran High School’s annual German Fest: Sauerbraten mit spaetzle, Deutsche potato salad, sweet & sour red cabbage, bratwurst mit sauerkraut and the, oh, so delectable bread pudding.

Diners enjoy the ethnic meal at the second annual CVLHS German Fest in 2011.

Diners enjoy the ethnic meal at the second annual CVLHS German Fest in 2011.

Tickets are now on sale for the Sunday, November 10, German Fest Supper, served from 5 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. in the Trinity Lutheran Church gym, 530 Fourth St. N.W., Faribault. Cost is $13 for ages 11 – adult; $7 for ages 5 – 10; and free for preschoolers with a paid adult. Call (507) 685-2636 for tickets. You may also purchase tickets at the door.

If you appreciate German food, you will enjoy this ethnic meal served after the free German Fest of Thanks & Praise, which begins at 4 p.m. in the Trinity sanctuary. From songs and prayers in German to the music of an accordion trio, a harmonica player and a 12-piece band, the program offers an opportunity to reflect on our blessings.

The German Fest presents a perfect prelude to Thanksgiving and to this season when Minnesotans crave comfort foods.

FYI: The German Fest Supper is a fundraiser for Morristown-based Cannon Valley Lutheran High School, which serves students in grades 9 – 12 from around the region. Classes were suspended this school year, among other reasons, to pay off the school’s operating debt with plans to reopen in the fall of 2014.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A photo essay: St. John’s Germanfest in rural Minnesota September 29, 2013

I AM 100 PERCENT German.

My plate, filled with German foods at St. John's annual Germanfest.

My plate, filled with German foods like sauerbraten, sauerkraut, German potato salad, sweet and sour beets and more at St. John’s annual Germanfest.

I like German food.

Today was a gorgeous autumn day here in southeastern Minnesota, as glorious as they get.

The steeple of the historic stone church with the roofline of a German themed beverage booth in the foreground.

The steeple of the historic stone church with the roofline of a German themed beverage booth in the foreground.

St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault, was hosting its annual Germanfest at its historic stone church out in the country.

Just a snippet of the buffet line.

Just a snippet of the buffet line.

I had to eat.

The social hall and rooms off the dining area were filled with diners.

The social hall and rooms off the dining area were filled with diners.

And I couldn’t think of a better place to dine on this Sunday afternoon than at St. John’s. Great food in the company of wonderful folks. Out in the country. Perfect weather. Perfect day.

Some of the St. John's kitchen crew, including long-time member Elsie Keller who is making German potato salad.

Some of the St. John’s kitchen crew, including long-time member Elsie Keller who is making German potato salad.

One of the major components of Germanfest is the fabulous quilt show inside the sanctuary.

One of the major components of Germanfest is the fabulous quilt show inside the sanctuary.

Among the incredible quilts were these three hung from the balcony.

Among the incredible quilts were these three hung from the balcony.

Each quilt comes with a story, this one among my favorites.

Each quilt comes with a story, this one among my favorites.

That glorious quilt show.

That glorious quilt show. Here you are seeing only a snippet of the quilts draped over pews.

My husband and I each bought a quilt raffle ticket.

My husband and I each bought a quilt raffle ticket.

The beautifully-appointed altar, complete with German and American flags.

The beautifully-appointed altar, complete with German and American flags.

Outside the church, I fell in love with the adorable goats at the petting zoo.

Outside the church, I fell in love with the adorable goats at the petting zoo.

And this little guy loved the miniature donkeys.

And this little guy loved the miniature donkeys.

Along with fresh produce and bakes goods and greeting cards (some published by Warner Press with my verses)

Along with fresh produce and baked goods and greeting cards (some published by Warner Press with verses I wrote) and apple jelly was this art (including these cute pooches).

Bingo drew the young and the older.

Bingo drew the young and the older.

Old-time music drew dancers and listeners to the tent next to the church.

Old-time music drew dancers and listeners to the tent next to the church.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Connecting cultures at the International Festival Faribault August 22, 2013

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Several Latinos lead in singing of Mexico's national anthem last September during the International Festival Faribault at Faribault's Central Park.

Several Latinos lead in singing of Mexico’s national anthem during the 2011 International Festival Faribault at Faribault’s Central Park. The flags represent the diverse cultures of Faribault.

ITS PURPOSES ARE TO PROMOTE understanding between cultures and to unite the community.

This Saturday, August 24, the International Festival Faribault will strive to do just that through song, dance, ethnic cuisine, children’s activities and more from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in Central Park.

Friends, Nimo Abdi, a sophomore at Faribault High School, left, and Nasteho Farah, a senior.

Friends, Nimo Abdi, left, and Nasteho Farah whom I met at last year’s fest.

I’ve attended the fest, now in its eighth year, several times. Each time I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for other cultures and for the challenges new immigrants to my community face. That hasn’t necessarily come simply via sitting on a park bench and watching ethnic dancers or listening to ethnic music. Nor has it come from purchasing food unfamiliar to my Minnesota taste buds.

That same little boy who was so intently focused on the musician.

A precious little boy photographed next to a vendor’s table during the 2012 International Festival Faribault.

Rather, I have learned the most by interacting, one on one, with those whose skin color and backgrounds differ from mine.

Therein, in my opinion, lies the key to understanding and uniting. The ability to see each other as individuals breaks down barriers, dispels untruths, brings people together. International Festival Faribault offers an ideal setting in which to connect personally.

Conversation and connecting..., no other words necessary.

Conversation and connecting…, no other words necessary. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from the 2012 festival.

So to the residents of my community, I issue this challenge: Attend the festival and connect with at least one person you don’t know. If you’re the descendant of German immigrants, strike up a conversation with someone from Somalia. If your roots are in Mexico, introduce yourself to someone with Scandinavian ancestry. You get the idea.

An Aztec dancer, garbed in a symbolic headdress entertains the audience during International Market Day in Faribault.

An Aztec dancer, garbed in a symbolic headdress, entertains the audience during International Market Day in Faribault in 2009. The event has since been remained International Festival Faribault.

In between that mingling, be sure to take in these scheduled activities:

10:30 – 11 a.m., Contemporary Spanish music by Miguel Tobar of Medford, also the program MC

11 – 11:30 a.m., Flag Ceremonies

11:30 – noon, Central American dances presented by Florecitas de Dios, a children’s dance group from Owatonna

noon – 1 p.m., Aztec dancers

1 – 2 p.m., Juggling act

2 – 4 p.m., Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo from Owatonna shows selected creatures.

2 – 3 p.m., Contemporary, gospel, pop and country music by Edy Valentine of Faribault

3 – 3:30 p.m., Somali dancers from the Twin Cities

3:30 p.m., breaking of pinatas and end of silent auction

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata.

A little girl stands on the opposite side of a group of children waiting to swing at the pinata during the 2012 festival.

Besides all of that, you’ll find a busy children’s area with a bouncy castle, games, face painting, hula hooping and more. One of the sweetest parts of this festival is to observe children, no matter their skin color, dress or culture, scrambling for candy from a broken pinata or sitting side by side at a picnic table coloring. They don’t care about cultural differences that seem to wedge into the minds of adults.

The United Way Red Truck will also be on the festival grounds with free children’s books to give away. I’m all for anything that encourages reading.

Served at the 2011 fest: Guatemalan chuchitos-- chicken, corn and salsa wrapped in a corn husk.  You'll find numerous vendors offering a variety of authentic international foods.

Served at the 2011 fest: Guatemalan chuchitos– chicken, corn and salsa wrapped in a corn husk. You’ll find numerous vendors offering a variety of authentic international foods.

Come hungry as vendors will sell ethnic foods of Central America, Somali, Ethiopia, Norway, Germany and more. Craft vendors will also be on-site.

International Festival Faribault truly does offer all of us the opportunity to embrace one another, to understand and to unite.

FYI: Click here and then here to read my blog posts from the 2012 festival.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hey, all you foodies and fun-loving folks… September 28, 2012

IT’S GOING TO BE ONE of those glorious fall weekends in Minnesota. Trees flaming with color. Crisp cobalt blue skies. A certain awareness that these sunny, warm days of autumn will soon morph into the gray weeks of winter.

But let’s not go there.

Instead, hop in the car and take a fall drive this weekend. Follow a meandering gravel road. Banish “hurry” from your vocabulary. Slow down. Park your vehicle and walk.

Then dine at a local community-centered activity like Cannon Valley Lutheran High School’s annual auction at the Morristown Community Center beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Wait a minute, you say. What does that have to do with food?

Well, the CVLHS event includes a bake sale. I know the woman organizing the bake sale and, based on that, you can be assured of an excellent selection of home-baked goods.

You can’t beat the food served during the CVLHS auction, like this pork sandwich, potato salad and homemade apple pie.

Not only that, you can eat a little lunch at the CVLHS auction. Hot pork, beef and cheesy turkey sandwiches. Salads. Pies from the Trinity Pie Makers (of Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault, my church) and assorted desserts. The food alone is well worth attending this event. Take that from someone—me—who has sampled this delicious food several times. (Click here to read a previous post about the CVLHS auction.)

One dozen of Kathy Hallanger’s fall-themed cookies sold for $40 at a previous auction.

Check out the silent auction items (auction runs from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.) and then stay for the live auction of items (beginning at 7 p.m.) like a week at an Iowa resort, theatre tickets, framed artwork, homemade cookies, a garden bench, 11 yards of clean gravel, a 2000 wheelchair accessible van and, ta-da, this just in from my friend Mike Young, volunteer development director at CVLHS:

Just to let you know…another example of how great people are…as I am standing in the office at CVLHS this morning…looking straight at the window…in pulls a pickup and trailer with an “M” 1944 Farmall Tractor for the auction!

So there, need a vintage tractor? Or how about a goat? Mike told me earlier this week about a game involving a real goat. Seems someone may be “stuck” with a goat, although you apparently can buy “goat insurance” to insure yourself from owning said goat.

The Ray Sands Band played at the 2011 Germanfest.

Then, on Sunday, head east of Faribault to St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, for the congregation’s annual Germanfest which includes a 10 a.m. worship service, a 3 p.m. polka praise service and a German buffet served from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and then again from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Deutsche food served in 2011: German potato salad, red cabbage, sauerbraten, rinderwurst, a brat, sauerkraut, beets and green beans on my plate.

And, yes, I ‘ve attended and can vouch for the deliciousness of the German meal and the enjoyment of the polka service. Additionally, you’ll find a bake shop (there’s that food thing again), Christmas store, quilt show, petting zoo, root beer stand, bingo and farmer’s market. (Click here to read a post I published last September about Germanfest.)

Will you be attending a community event this weekend? If so, feel free to share in a comment. Or are you organizing or participating in any such event this weekend in Minnesota? Here’s your chance to spread the word. Submit a brief comment with info. It’s all about community here on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In the kitchen preparing for a German dinner November 15, 2011

Barb Young preps food in the Trinity Lutheran Church/Faribault Lutheran School kitchen for Cannon Valley Lutheran High School's German dinner.

THESE DINNERS DON’T happen without lots of willing hands and hours and hours and hours of volunteers working together.

We’re talking church, school and community dinners here, and specifically Cannon Valley Lutheran High School’s second annual German Fest of Thanks and Praise.

This past weekend I got a behind-the-scenes, before-dinner peek at the effort that went into preparing a German meal for more than 200 diners. Cooking isn’t my forte, meaning I admire folks like Arlen and Suzanne Krause who always seem to be in the kitchen whenever CVLHS, based in Morristown, hosts a fundraising dinner. The Krauses love to cook and they know how to cook. I’ve suggested more than once that they open a catering business or restaurant.

Arlen Krause prepares ethnic food for the German Fest dinner.

Saturday evening, while assisting my friend Mike Young, the CVLHS volunteer development director, and my husband Randy with setting up tables and chairs for the German dinner, I occasionally popped into the kitchen to photograph progress there. The Krauses and Barb Young, who’s married to Mike, were busy mixing and stirring and slicing in the two hours I was there; they’d started around noon and labored until 9 p.m. and were back again the next morning. And I know they’d also been prepping food earlier in the week.

Beef awaited slicing and complete transformation into tender and savory sauerbraten.

The feeding-multitudes recipe for delectable bread pudding.

Bread cubes, mounded high in bowls, were baked into bread pudding.

Pans of raisin-topped bread pudding cooled on the kitchen counter Saturday evening.

Fortunately, the kitchen crew trio didn’t mind my scooting around the counters, camera in tow. I tried to stay out of their way and not ask too many questions or overstay my welcome.

But staying out of the kitchen proved challenging given the tantalizing scent of gravy bubbling in roasters, the sweet Grandma’s kitchen aroma of bread pudding baking in the oven and the pungent, nose-stinging scent of vinegar poured onto cabbage.

By the magic addition of vinegar, the cabbage color changed from blue gray to purple in the foreground. I was witness to a science experiment and cooking class rolled into one.

I am 100 percent German, after all, and perhaps my German genes were naturally drawn to these food smells of the Motherland. Either that or I was awfully hungry given the supper hour. Probably both. Homemade caramel corn, strategically placed on the serving counter, cut the hunger edge.

Vinegar, sugar and butter—lots and lots and lots of butter—were key ingredients in the ethnic foods I saw prepared. I could hardly wait to taste the complete meal Sunday evening following the German worship service.

Let me tell you, the German dinner rated as absolutely fabulous. Tender sauerbraten (savory beef and gravy) atop spaetzle (like mini dumplings); dense bratwurst mixed with sauerkraut; tangy, bacon-laced German potato salad as good as I’ve ever eaten; the perfect blend of sweet and sour in the jolt-of-color red cabbage; a nip of pepper in the tiny rounds of pfefferneusse (cookies); and to-die-for, heavenly bread pudding smothered in a buttery, sugary sauce.

The German meal: sauerbraten and spaetzle on the left, German potato salad, sweet and sour red cabbage, dinner roll and sauerkraut and brats.

CVLHS volunteer cooks and bakers—and I know more were involved than Arlen, Suzanne and Barb—thanks for one outstanding ethnic meal.

As long as I’m extending appreciation, I’d like to express a broader thanks to all those folks out there who labor behind the scenes at church, school and community dinners. I’ve been to a handful or more of these dinners this year and I have, every time, been beyond impressed with the quality of the food and the hard work that clearly is invested in such events. Well done.

CVLHS students served the German meal to attendees.

Diners enjoy the ethnic meal at the second annual CVLHS German Fest.

Kristin Sellentine, a Trinity Lutheran Church member and active in community theater, greeted guests as Katie Luther, wife of Reformist Martin Luther. Her costume hearkens from her days of acting at the Renaissance Festival.

CVLHS Development Director Mike Young, a designer at Erickson Furniture in Faribault and a floral designer, transformed the Trinity gym into a beautiful dining experience with his creative talents.

Prior to the dinner, German Fest attendees gathered in the Trinity sanctuary for a service of thanks and praise, including a performance by the CVLHS Tone Chime Choir. Hymns and prayers spoken and sung in German and English, and other musical selections, were also part of the 45-minute service.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling