Dakota State University -- NDSU Agriculture
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo ND, 58105-5655, Tel: 701-231-7881, Fax: 701-231-7044
August 7, 2003
Plains Folk: Reprise of the Fall Suppers
When Rose Potulny got married in 1937, the fall supper at St. Markís Catholic Church of Conway, N. D., already was a going concern. It those days it was served after mass in a building a block away that used to be a dance hall. "Every family in our parish brought two or three roasted chickens," Mrs. Potulny writes. "The potatoes were brought the day before and peeled by the ladies of the church."
Putting on a fall supper requires dedication to duty. Mrs. Potulny recalls, "We had an older lady that took care of the chickens. She had help in cutting them up. The kitchen in the hall was about 10 by 10 feet. One very hot day she collapsed. The other workers in the hall carried her out and she sat on the steps. After a half hour or so she was back in the kitchen taking care of her job."
There was another lady who made the coffee every year: "She made it in a boiler. She just added more hot water and coffee grounds as the boiler would get low on coffee. I donít know how she did it but everybody commented on her good coffee."
As with so many such events, people had their roles. The men of the parish cleaned the hall and set up tables. Young girls waited on the diners. The hard work, though, was for the adult women. Mrs. Potulny recalls laboring over the wood and coal stove in the hot, cramped kitchen, and yet she says, "It was a great day."
As this sketch indicates, Iíve begun to hear from people about their fall suppers. In a previous column I said that I would construct a web directory of such events, and thatís begun. Iíve posted the first five here: www.plainsfolk.com/suppers.htm.
There youíll learn that St. Markís nowadays serves beginning at 4 p.m. the third Sunday afternoon of October. Women cook the turkeys, men carve them. In addition to two choices of pie (apple or pumpkin) there are kolaches (prune, poppyseed, apricot, apple). Some women make their kolaches closed, others open-faced. (A doctrinal matter, I suppose.) As the kolaches indicate, this parish has a strong mixture of Czech folk.
Serving is in the church basement, where they also do other wonderfully hokey things, you know, like the fish pond and drawing for prizes. Isnít it amazing how kids you thought were jaded by flashy video and digital gizmos still get a kick out of the old fishing pond?
Thanks not only to Mrs. Potulny but also to Connie Schommer and Lori Wirth, who head up the Altar Society at St. Maryís of Munich. They tell me they serve their turkey supper from 4:30 p.m. on the fourth Sunday in September. Darlene Miller, President of the Womenís Fellowship at Canaan Moravian Church, western Cass County, informs me they will serve this year starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25.
Hereís a little mystery. In my mail comes an envelope bearing a 65-cent Canadian stamp and postmarked from postal code R3O 0J0. It is addressed in bold red, and the message inside is likewise printed. It reads: "There is no such thing as ĎFall Suppers.í The proper term is Fowl Suppers." The note is unsigned.
So, somebody feels strongly about this. I know the phrase "fowl supper" is used in many places across the Canadian prairies, but some there also say "fall supper." Iíve read that "fowl supper" was the earlier usage and that in recent years it has drifted toward the other. On the other hand, I have not yet encountered the phrase "fowl supper" south of the Forty-Ninth Parallel. It certainly would have an oddly antiquarian sound in American speech. Iím afraid this is a question that can only be settled by research in the minutes of the ladies aids and altar societies.
Whether you wish to straighten me out, or just get some publicity for your own fall supper, I can be reached at North Dakota State University, Fargo ND 58105-5075; firstname.lastname@example.org; or 701-799-2942.
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