Eating well to feed the world?s hungry

The Mennonite Relief Sale offers people a lot more than handicrafts to purchase. The variety of ethnic food offered at the sale keeps them coming back, if only to eat.

But they aren?t the only ones to benefit.

?We have to eat to feed the hungry,? said Richard Ediger, sale chair.

Leon Schmidt, chair of the ?Feeding the Multitude? committee, said several people come out because they enjoy what for them is a unique cuisine.

Actually, two ethnic traditions are represented in the ?German buffet? offered on Friday night and Saturday.

One of the ?stars? of the buffet is verenika, a cottage-cheese dumpling from the Dutch Low-German heritage of Mennonites. The verenika are traditionally covered with ham or sausage gravy, though some prefer syrup.

The second featured dish is bohne beroggi, a Swiss-German delicacy consisting of buns filled with mashed sweetened pinto beans and served with a sweet cream sauce.

The menu of the German buffet also includes ethnic favorites such as borscht and moos, the latter being a pudding-like ?fruit soup? usually made cherries but sometimes prunes.

Preparing the foods begins more than a week before the sale, with 24 subcommittees and numerous volunteers working together.

This year, volunteers will gather in Hillsboro March 28 to make the verenika. At 6:30 a.m., the cottage cheese and dough are prepared before the rest of the volunteers arrive at 8 a.m.

?There is a lot of preparation before so it is all ready to go when the other volunteers get there,? said Anita Goertzen, Goessel, who directs the effort along with her husband, Arlen. ?It goes pretty smoothly.?

Around 200 volunteers, working in two shifts in assembly-line fashion, prepare around 19,000 verenika for the sale.

?I think it is important for our heritage to continue by having the foods,? Goertzen said.

She said a lot of people come because they enjoy the food but don?t want to make it themselves.

Meanwhile, the bohne beroggi are prepared in Moundridge. The action will begin this year at 4:30 a.m., April 1. After preparation work is completed, the remainder of the volunteers arrive at 7 a.m.

This year, instead of spending time sorting, washing and cooking the beans, the beans will come already prepared. Volunteers only will have to pour boiling water on them and add sugar?and they are ready to bake.

Verna Goering, Moundridge, who is helping with the beroggi project, said the sale provides people with the opportunity to try a variety of things. The beroggi also are available at the Moundridge High School before the sale.

?I think people just like to go back to their heritage and go back to the day when their mother cooked these things,? Goering said. ?I think some of the younger people like to try these things that they don?t know a whole lot about.?

Other foods available at the sale in various locations are sausage sandwiches, New Year?s Eve cookies (a fried raisin dumpling), Russian pancakes, barbecued pork and chicken, hamburgers, other ethnic and American favorites, baked items and noodles.

On Saturday morning, breakfast will be offered at the Pride of Kansas Building.

The ?Feeding the Multitudes? German buffet begins at 4 p.m., Friday, April 7 and again at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, April 8.

About 9,000 people are fed at the sale.

All of the items are donated, allowing all of the profits to go to the relief, development and service work of Mennonite Central Committee.

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