Fall in—supper's on the table

By Mike D'Amour

September 22, 2016 12:00 AM

DISHING IT UP Folks help themselves to a fall supper at Grace United where a delicious turkey dinner was on the menu. The annual feasts are a great time to reconnect with neighbours, old friends and is a great time to make new ones.

This may sound a little silly, but when I first learned I would be moving back to the Prairies, one of the things I was looking forward to was fall suppers.
They don’t have them on Vancouver Island, from whence I recently came—even the Monsoon festivals, and New Provincial Tax Day, usually every Tuesday, fail to come close to a good fall supper.
I was first introduced to the seasonal meals as a young teen in Winnipeg.
The first ones would happen soon after Labour Day and my family would bundle up in the family car and head to small towns such as Stonewall, Ile des Chenes, Portage la Prairie and others around or near Manitoba’s capital city.
We’d walk in as strangers and usually leave with the well wishes of new friends.
That’s exactly the way Mary Holtby remembers them, too.
“In our small community I grew up in, which is north of Waseca, they always had a fall supper and I look at that little school now and I think how did they get all those people in there,” said the 73-year-old, who lives north of Marshall.
“It was a real social outing,” she said.
“I think the falls suppers now, that’s still the basic purpose.”
Born in the farming community of Waseca, Holtby said she remembers the “joy” of the annual suppers.
“Everyone brought their stuff and lots of people used what they had in their garden or what they put down in preserves and we had this big meal,” she recalled.
“Some would cook the turkeys and others would be required to bring vegetables, or dessert and pies—pies were always popular.”
Holtby said she remembers the suppers were always packed with sociable, hungry people.
Holtby added producing the dinners—which sometimes took weeks of advance planning— was a lot of hard work.
“It was a lot of hard work and you did make some funds from it, but we had people come early and stay late because they hadn’t seen their friends or neighbours for a long time.
I went to my first 2016 fall supper Saturday at Lloydminster’s Grace United church with two good friends and had a terrific turkey meal—I could have sipped the savoury gravy from a goblet—and watched as folks mingled and socialized with others in the packed hall as an army of ladies and youngsters made sure the buffet was well stocked and dirty dishes removed from tables adorned with white flowers in vases.
The fall supper tradition —put on by community organizations and churches—mostly churches—is a mainstay on the social calendar of the northern plains.
In the beginning, suppers occurred to mark the autumnal equinox and offered the ability to share the bounty of the harvest.
The dinners are often traditional and did indeed reflect the bounty of the harvest.
Turkey, ham, gravy, peas, squash, potatoes, carrots, various pies—always a pumpkin one in the mix— and various other desserts will invariably be found on the menu.
Turkey is everywhere today, yet in many decades past the meat on the table was invariably chicken.
“We can have turkey dinners anytime of the year now, where at one time that was kind of a special thing at Easter, Thanksgiving, that kind of thing,” said Holtby.
However, now, more than ever, the suppers are a means to generate revenue that’s sometimes vital to the continuation of the other organizations that host them.
“They do raise funds and that is a driving force,” agreed Holtby, who added she still attends a few fall suppers.
“We enjoy the social aspect, but in days gone by you knew everybody who was there, where now in your own community, you don’t know a lot of people anymore.”
So, with the suppers just starting, take this opportunity to get out there, enjoy a great meal with friends and get to know others in your community.
Hope to see you there!

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