Monday, November 11, 2013

About that Booyah Party.....

Joel's friend Paul's Booyah Kettle
My friend Ann keeps asking me when I'm going to write about the booyah party.  To tell you the truth, I'm a little nervous writing about booyah because I've never actually made it.  Ann's family has a long, long family tradition of hosting booyah parties going back decades.  They have their own family recipe which is fantastic and never fails to please the large crowd of folks they entertain on a yearly basis.

Booya(h) is a true northeastern Wisconsin tradition.  Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia :

The name "booyah" is thought to have derived from the French language words for "to boil" (bouillir), and subsequently broth (bouillon). The spelling with an H is attributed to the phonetic spelling by Wallonian immigrants from Belgium.[3] The Dictionary of American Regional English attributes the term to French Canadian immigrants; others attribute it to a derivation from the Provençal seafood dish bouillabaisse.[2]
An article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on October 29, 1976, speculating on the origin of the spelling and related fundraiser event, reads:

Lester (Rentmeester) relates recollections of his schoolteacher father, Andrew, probably the "pioneer" of the chicken booyah supper. "At the old Finger Road School where he taught, funds were always in short supply," he recalls. "So my father hit on the idea of a community picnic to raise money for the school. He went around to parents and neighbors, gathering up beef and chickens for the traditional Belgian soup that would be the main dish at the benefit affair. And he also went down to the office of the old Green Bay Gazette, looking for publicity." The writer handling the news of the benefit picnic, so the story goes, asked what would be served. "Bouillon—we will have bouillon," came the reply, with the word pronounced properly in French. "The young reporter wrote it down as he heard it," Rentmeester relates. "It came out 'booyah' in the paper. It was booyah the first time it was served at Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Church—an affair my father also originated--and that's what people have called it ever since."
Since the turn of the 21st century, the spelling of the name has typically been shortened to "booya."

Ann's family were parishioners of Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Church where this all started, so I can tell you---They Know Booyah.

Time for a confession here; I wasn't always a fan of the stuff.  Even though I have lived in Northeastern Wisconsin my entire life (on the same piece of dirt, no less) booyah wasn't something I was familiar with until around 1973.  Some guys my dad met in a tavern inquired if we had any laying hens we wanted to part with.  My dad said we had a couple that were getting long in the tooth, er, beak.....and if they wanted them, they could have 'em.  They wanted them, and promised Dad he would be treated to a delicious end product called 'booyah'.  Huh, never heard of it.

True to their word, a few days later the bar buddies showed up with a one gallon ice cream pail of booyah one cold fall night.   I hate to admit, my first taste of booyah wasn't great, and clouded my opinion of it for years to come.   I wasn't alone with my distaste, surprisingly; neither of my parents liked it either. 

A little more history: My late father was born in 1913.  He was a very finicky eater, which is weird, considering he grew up dirt poor with seven siblings and never enough food to go around.  One thing Dad could NOT abide was food mixed together.   You know those plates with the divisions built into them to keep things separate?  Those plates must have been designed for Dad.  He absolutely detested casseroles, too.

I'll always remember the time we were invited to my aunt's home (Dad's sister) for a meal. Auntie  had mixed corn, peas, and carrots together as a side dish.  I was sitting next to Dad when the dish was passed and the look on his face spoke volumes.  Needless to say, he didn't partake.  Mom and I heard about the Absolutely Disgusting Vegetables all the way home.  No one in their right mind would dump all that food together and expect a person to eat it!  What is the world coming to?

So, imagine Dad's dismay when he opened up the ice cream pail.  Since it is basically a chicken (and beef, pork, venison, etc.) stew, complete with vegetables off all types and kinds co-mingled together, Dad was immediately disgusted.  Mom and I were told we were on our own, we could eat it or bury it, but he prescribed the latter.  Mom warmed up a little of the stew and she and I tried some.  Unfortunately, there were bones and chicken skin  (I didn't find any beaks, thank goodness) and lots of grease involved and it didn't sit well with either of us.  Even if the dog would have been interested, we couldn't have fed it to him either, due to all the bones and fat.  So much for booyah.  Ick.

This is Paul's homemade kettle, every booyah chef has their own variation.
 Fast forward twenty years; we met Ann's family and were invited to their annual Labor Day Booyah Party.  Since I inherited my father's finickiness and had my own repulsive memory of the last booyah to cross my lips, I was pretty leery of indulging again.  But to my amazement, the booyah at Ann's party was delicious, it was nothing like my first taste test way back in the day.  Wow, this stuff was good! 

Every cook has their own unique recipe and booyah varies from batch to batch and cook to cook.  Joel's friend Paul also is a connoisseur of booyah, and has his own homemade cooker.   The cookers themselves are quite the piece of engineering; I've seen many different variations and am always impressed by the work that goes into making them.  True, they have a bit of a Dr. Seuss-like look about them, but they work.  The cooker has a receptacle for wood in the bottom of the barrel and a kettle suspended above the heat. 

The door in the middle opens to put the wood in.
 Paul has kindly taken Joel on as an apprentice booyah-maker and between the two of them, they make three to four batches a year. 

Stainless lid on top of the kettle.

Paul and Joel made the booyah for our party August tenth, and another batch in October for friends.  I wished I would have had Joel take pictures of the process.  It involves boiling chicken, pork, beef, venison in the cooker  (Paul's recipe) and in the meantime cutting up cabbages, carrots, onions, corn, potatoes, etc. so on and so forth.  The meat is taken out of the kettle, deboned and added back to the broth.  The vegetables and seasonings are stirred in and after a set amount of time, usually several hours of cooking over the wood fire, it's Booyah. 

I'm not sure how many gallons this holds, I'm guessing around five.......
I don't have any pictures of the booyah itself, duh.  I know, where are my blogging skills?  On August tenth, we had about 50-60 people here for a party and there was only about a quart left over.

Paul's recipe varies a bit from Ann's family recipe, especially since Paul uses corn in his version.  Ann's family does not.   You'd be surprised how adamant people can be over what should or shouldn't be included in those kettles, and it can be amusing listening to the debates.   And I'm sure there are secret ingredients/techniques I know nothing about.   But the one constant at all booyah parties we've attended are the oyster crackers, you gotta have Oyster Crackers.

We were invited to five booyah parties this summer, and though each batch was a little different, they were all equally delicious!  Some day I may actually get involved in the process if we ever host another one, but hey, it works for me if Paul and Joel don't mind doing the cooking. 
None of our Girls were harmed in the making of this post.

Pass the crackers, please.



FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dang, no pictures of the booyah in the pot! Of course, you had a lot on your mind this past summer, but next year pictures please, complete with oyster crackers and happy partakers.

Love and hugs to you dear Karen ~ FlowerLady

Pamela Gordon said...

Well, I certainly learned something today. LOL Never heard of Booyah but have heard the saying.

Alison said...

So happy to see you finally wrote your Booya post! I have never heard of it before, but it kind of reminds me of the Southern tradition of a low country boil, although I think that is done with sausage and shrimp. There are probably plenty of regions and even other countries with similar traditions designed to make food go a long way. That first batch of Booya that you got does sound pretty disgusting. I love crispy chicken skin, but boiled? Ugh, not so much.

HolleyGarden said...

Never heard of it, but I love vegetables all mixed together. Casseroles of any kind are my favorite dish! I bet I'd love the stuff (maybe not the first dish you tried, though, with chicken skin and bones in it).

africanaussie said...

It sounds similar to a potjie - a South African strew cooked in a three legged pot on top of an open fire. I like the sound of cooking the meat and then taking the bones out before adding the veggies. As for me I would definitely add the corn. I love dishes all mixed up like that! that pot looks amazing as if it is part of the barrell - is it permanently fixed in or does it come out for serving?

Peonies & Magnolias said...

I've never heard of it but it sure sounds good and I'm glad you described it so well for us. I hope you are feeling better and continue to do so. Have a great week.


Indie said...

Ahh, I thought when you were talking about a booyah party, you were just talking about a fun party. You know, since some people say 'booyah' and do a fistpump to show excitement... Anyway, that is really interesting, and I definitely learned something new! Interesting that it is made on a homemade cooker. I guess it imparts some sort of woodsy flavor?

Karen said...

FlowerLady, I know, what was I thinking, not taking pictures of the end product?!

Pamela, I used to get so confused when I'd hear people yell 'Booya'.....I thought there had to be a kettle somewhere, lol.

Hi Alison, oh yeah, that first batch almost ruined me for life.

HolleyGarden, I'm sure you would love it. It is really good stuff and healthy, too.

africanaussie, now I've never heard of a potje, but I bet you're right about it being very similar. The pot doesn't come out for serving, but that would be an awesome idea if we ever build one of the kettles for ourselves!

Sandy, thank you! I'm feeling pretty good lately. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Indie, yes, the wood smoke does give the booyah a very good flavor. And I was always confused when people yelled 'Booyah'....Ok, where's the oyster crackers?

Anonymous said...

I never heard of booyah either. I am with your husband more to the fact that I might not recognize the food inside the pot. Funny how traditions endure. I was glad to hear the chickens did not end up inside the pot. Phew.