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Feeding The Hungry

April 7th, 2013

I played a small part in feeding the hungry this past weekend. No, I didn’t go work in a soup kitchen or make a financial donation to “Feed The Children”, I helped feed hundreds of hungry Mennonites. Who in return dug deep into their pockets and helped to feed thousands all over the world.

Pluma mos

I helped out with the Verenika Dinner at the annual Nebraska Mennonite Relief Sale on Saturday. For those of you who have never heard of this event, it’s a two day auction held each year during which quilts, hand-crafted items and numerous donated items are auctioned off with all proceeds going toward MCC for world relief. The MCC Sale is a great cause, a huge social event and the place to be if your are hungry for some ethnic German food. Oh, the food. The food is a huge draw, I mean at this year’s sale concessions brought in $71,341. Almost as much as the two main auction totals combined.

To Go

My church has always been in charge of the Saturday noon meal, one of the most popular meals at the sale, the Verenika Dinner. If you’ve never heard of verenika here is how I would describe it: dough pockets filled with seasoned cottage cheese. Even as I type that I kind of shiver because I am not a cottage cheese fan in any way, shape or form, with the exception being in verenika. These pockets of cottage cheese are then either fried or boiled and then served covered with a ham gravy and cubed ham. And here is where it gets interesting, the best way to eat verenika, and this is a debate that has raged on between families in my hometown for generations, is covered in sugar. Yes I said sugar. I know it sounds gross but believe me it is not. You will witness seemingly normal people sit there for a good five minutes opening packet after tiny packet of sugar (because no one can seem to figure out that life would be so much easier if they just placed cups of sugar on the tables so it could be spooned over piles of verenika) and pouring it over their meal. You will often hear “Do you come from a sugar family?” to which the response is generally, “I’m sugar all the way, but my husband (or wife) is anti-sugar.”

Trays and more trays

A few years back the Verenika Dinner faced extinction. The same group had been in charge of this giant undertaking for many, many years and were ready to hang up their aprons and actually just sit at a table and enjoy the meal instead of being in charge of making it. After numerous pleas were posted in our weekly bulletin asking for volunteers to take over, a brave group of young adults stepped forward and took on the challenge. I admired their courage. My friend Tami was one of these brave souls. Earlier in the week she and 40-plus volunteers met at the church and made 5,377 little dough pockets. Tami had asked me to help out in the kitchen on the day of the sale last year and apparently I did such a good job she asked me back again this year (or maybe she just ran out of volunteers).

Ang and Tami

So I reported for duty at 10 a.m. with my Tupperware bowl, colander and slotted spoon. I was once again assigned to the boiling crew. That was just fine with me as the only kind I’ll eat are boiled (plus there were some suspicious characters on the fry crew, yes Jerry I’m talking about you). I was assigned one of four ancient stoves to man. The job involved dropping two dozen verenika into boiling water, waiting for them to float to the surface and then scooping them out into my colander.

Fry Crew

Floaters

The boiled verenika were then delivered into a serving container where Tami lined them up in neat little rows and covered them with gravy. This process went on for hours and hours oh, and it seemed like hours. I have no idea how many people we fed but I know that nothing was left over. All leftover food is sent to the auction ring where it is bought by the highest bidder.

Veranike in their bed

The whole process seemed to work like a well-oiled machine. The fry crew finished up before us boilers (and some chose to brag about that fact) and I went home feeling like I had given just a little bit back. And the next morning I woke up and realized how out of shape I am, my left arm was killing me, I mean how do you get sore muscles from carrying a colander of little dough pockets around for a few hours?

5 Responses to “Feeding The Hungry”

  1. Justine Says:

    Looking at this made me hungry…I am definitely anti-sugar! Since you know how to make them maybe you should bring some to work and share them with us :) I see Ang was working hard too.

  2. Stan Peters Says:

    We were at the auction for the dinner a few years ago. Every spring I long to return for nothing else than the dinner. Living in NW Indiana the travel can be quite risky at this time of year.

  3. Kerri Says:

    Yep Justine, Ang did her time right beside me and woke up with a sore arm as well. Of course she was all decked out in a super-cute apron courtesy of Brenda.

  4. Tami Says:

    Hey Kerri P…. Thanks for sharing . And thanks for your help! Is year 3 in your future? :)

  5. kerri Says:

    Yes Tami, I’m in for year three!

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