Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fall Supper




A couple weekends ago I was reminded that a group of pink aproned, fixed up hair, fancy jean-wearing women from rural Alberta are nothing to mess with. Resourceful, strong and can work a draft horse under the table, these women are reminiscent of a small army. Oh my! Don't you get in their way. 


Across our wind sculpted prairies some old traditions hold current today. Years ago fall suppers, where folks gathered in churches to chow down on chicken, salads, and potatoes, were an important way to connect after the grueling days of harvest were over. These meals were all prepared without running water and electricity and ladies groups, did just that -- grouped together and cooked. As fundraisers for the women's clubs in churches, fall suppers were a place where neighbour after neighbour would show up to visit, eat, and enjoy a short program. My Grandma remembers as a child being all shined up and waiting upstairs with a nervous stomach, for her number to be called to eat. The nerves weren't for the meal, but for the program afterwards that the children helped put on. 

Now, our fall suppers are generally a buffet style spread of deliciousness. Turkey is served instead of chicken, and potatoes, vegetables and salads adorn the plates. Accompanied with coffee and pie, it's too bad that there weren't couches to have a snooze on afterwards.  Ladies organizations from churches, as well as Town and Country clubs from our small rural communities unite to make money and serve up a full meal. As a girl, I washed dishes in the back with other young girls from the community. You always wondered who you would get to chat with while going through tea towel after soaking wet tea towel, drying dishes.

A few days ago, I washed my girls up, getting ready to haul them into our nearest community, a place where less than a hundred people reside, probably counting kittens and pups all around.  The sun blazed down on the snow left over from two weeks of ice fog that had caused power outages. Folks rendered themselves a little crazier than before, from the lack of brightness in the sky, and the sunshine was welcomed! We plowed across muddy gravel roads, with a sort of tricky Spring feel in the air with the snow turning into liquid in the ditches. 

Heading into the hall, we were greeted with the sound of dishes crashing, and a dim room with a few candles on the tables stretched out before us. We might live in the boondocks, but these aren't the pioneer days, no sir, the power was still having major glitches after the hokey weather of the past few weeks. Apparently on this day, of all days, there was an outage for several hundred miles and women gasped in the morning, not daring to open their ovens as turkeys were being browned to perfection. You can imagine the scene being set; nerves were racked and nails tapped maniacally on the counter with eyes on the clock, waiting for light to flicker in the kitchen.

People far and wide came. Turkey was fed to four times the amount of folks that reside here. 

These women were something! I have never seen the like, and you would think that I would have been prepared, having grown up in this area - moulded, raised, and supported by these ladies. When the power went out, a stern phone call was placed to our local electricity provider and a reminder was made to put our teensy hamlet on priority.  Forget those communities with hospitals in them, there is near three hundred pounds of turkey cookin' around here!

In the hall murmured conversations led to phone calls and a general consensus of "this show must go on!" People joke about gas-powered blenders, but folks, with my very eyes I saw extension cords hauled around and generators brought in, and gas powered blenders were indeed used. Warnings of, “Watch your step!”, blenders whirring to mash potatoes and electric knives coming to life, the women worked at Mach speed to make up time lost to black. A cheer went up when the lights came on, and almost like something out of a storybook, a collected sort of 'awwwww!!' when the power went off again. Like an army of ants, these women put a spread on, but I tell you, the process was somewhat scary to get there. I have an awed sort of respect for these gals, in a, "Heck yes, ma'am, I'll do whatever you say! I know that pink apron means business!" kind of way.


If you want to experience a piece of prairie history, find a small town in the fall, ask about their turkey supper and you surely won't be let down as you help celebrate the completion of harvest and support a women's organization. You might sit down next to your Grandpa's old neighbour who can tell you tales of round ups from years past, or you might meet the tiniest, newest neighbour to the community, swaddled up tight. No matter who you cross paths with there, you will be better for it.  It might not be as exciting as our last one was, but it will have some sort of tasty pie to punctuate whatever adventure it will hold and trust me -- all are welcomed. 

17 comments:

LeAnna said...

Love. This. (!!!!) Small towns really are best. On the way in to vote the other day, two ladies were overheard beaming about their freshly painted barns. I <3 Rural living. Even though I live in a rural suburb, it's still good folk for the most part.

Elizabeth Martin said...

This is wonderful! Love it! I'm glad your rural area is keeping up with traditions and get togethers. I know we always look forward to church suppers and wedding dances back home to mingle with the neighbors!

quintuplicatemom said...

Our youth group does the cooking and serving of our Thanksgiving supper. They did a super job. But oh dear, reading this makes me hungry! For pumpkin pie, turkey, the trimmings; all so yummy!
I baked bread today. Do you think that will fill the hollow tummy?

Bonnie said...

You are making memories for your girls. There nothing like a small town for the sense of community. THanks for sharing.

Karen said...

What an awesome gathering!!.. you, there.. are amongst the riches of this earth.. it's not in the concrete jungles and urban outfits.. it's in the windswept prairies of Alberta!

Daniela @Frugal Aint Cheap said...

wonderful post! I totally enjoy things like this.

Crystal said...

How excellent, our community does not have a turkey supper, but we sure do have a Christmas one! I am rather excited to go, even if I am not one of the cooks, I too have great respect for them cooking up big meals for us all to enjoy.

Pom Pom said...

Hi Cheyenne!
You describe the supper so beautifully! I love the pictures of folks of all ages. I fear we're forgetting how to feed big groups. Sad.
Thank you for sharing. I feel joyful!

Nell said...

I would have freaked if the electricity went out while baking a turkey. That is a crisis!! But never underestimated the power of a large group of women to make it all work out. We are an ingenious bunch! So glad that you get to be a part of such rich history, and that you are able to pass on to your family a sense of real community.

Cathy Brian said...

Nothing beats what you just described. I often find myself in awe of women in those types of situations. you have a great gift with writing. Keep it up....the few people you touch need your down to earth, "This is what it is all about" blog. Especially me! Thanks Ceyenne

The Goerzen Girls...and Art said...

Isn't that the truth...never mess with a group of women on a mission! Indeed, a force to be reckoned with

Gumbo Lily said...

We used to have pancake suppers in the fall at our local community halls, but not much anymore. However, we did host a cowboy poetry event which included sandwiches, salads and homemade pies served up by the ranchwives in the area. It's always great fun. Folks that are used to power outages know how to handle the challenges, don't they?

Libbie said...

Cheyenne stories like these are so great to be recorded! It makes me just feel right at home thinking of the church ladies & smile as I put faces to the church ladies at our church. i always love working in their too right along beside them :)

But your towns story is pretty amazing! It is funny how those church ladies can magically make the men of the church hop to it & get them hustling faster than they thought they could :) That thought makes me smile!

Thanks for sharing Cheyenne! You are a historian at its finest!!!

Jennifer said...

How neat!! I wish we had something like that in these parts.

fernvalley01 said...

I grew up going to and in later years helping to prepare the Namao turkey supper, I know just the kind of lady you are telling about

Rachel said...

Oh my! I love it!!

A Prairie Girl in California said...

beautiful.
that is the word i came up with to describe this. ♥
i love that exact community!!!
that hall, becomes the local skating rink in the winter where when we were kids we learned to skate pushing those old wooden chairs around and around...

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