Get Your Booya Before It’s Gone!

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

If you haven’t had your fill of booya this year, you had better not delay any longer: St. Jerome’s (in Maplewood) Carryout Booya starts at 7am this coming Sunday, Oct. 25 and goes “until they run out.” St. Jerome’s tells us: “It goes fast.” So get there early, and bring your Tupperware!

The Church of St. Agnes held their booya last weekend, Sunday Oct. 18, but sells “Our Famous St. Agnes Booya” pre-packaged, frozen, in the church kitchen on Sundays from 9:30am to 1:30pm. On weekdays, you can contact their school’s development office at 651.925.8809.

Every church or community group that hosts an annual booya, usually as a fundraiser, has its own secret recipe, passed down through the years. Booya stew contains some combination of oxtail, carrots, celery, corn, peas, onions, rutabagas, chicken, green beans, and wax beans. A single-serving bowl of booya, to eat in, will set you back $3-$5. Take-out booya (bring your own container!) is usually priced by the ladle.

Nick Cardinal, who was Second Vice President at St. Paul’s Polish American Club before they closed this past spring, says his uncle made the club’s booya for “booya weekend” for about 25 years, since 1985. Cardinal, who helped his uncle make the booya since he “was a little kid, 10 or 12 years old,” said they would make 360 gallons of booya in the club’s two 60-gallon booya kettles. The week before the booya, Cardinal’s uncle, a retired chef from Aramark, would make stock from chicken bones, oxtail, and whole chickens. Then, on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the booya, the “old timers from the club would do the chopping of carrots, onions, celery, and rutabagas. The beans we’d get frozen. Then, we’d put it together and cook it.” Says Cardinal: “I don’t know if he has a recipe. He would just throw stuff together.”

Cardinal says a good booya, like his uncle’s, “has big chunks of chicken and beef. A whole slew of vegetables.” A bad booya “won’t have flavor or will have meat that is stringy.” Cardinal believes that his uncle’s extra step of making the stock first was a differentiator.

Most groups offer activities, games, charity auctions, and even other food, at their booyas. The Church of St. Agnes sells Monsignor Schuler’s “monster” chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven for $1 each, as well as sloppy joes, egg rolls, root beer floats, pulled pork sandwiches, and various baked goods. Three adolescent boys at the table next to us, plastic forks in hand, were polishing off a 9-inch cake between them. According to Cardinal, the Polish American Club ran meat raffles and pull-tabs during booya weekend, “as well as a cakewalk upstairs.”

As far as the name goes, Cardinal says: “A lot of people don’t know where booya came from. And neither do I.”

St. Jerome Catholic Church
380 Roselawn Ave E, St Paul
651.771.1209

Church of Saint Agnes
548 Lafond Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55103
651.925.8809

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9 Comments

  1. Kirsi Dahl10/22/2009Reply

    I love the quote: Cardinal says: “A lot of people don’t know where booya came from. And neither do I.”

  2. I’m watching Julia Child reruns on PBS and she’s talking about bouillabaise and gosh darn it but doesn’t “bouilla” sound a lot like “booya”?

  3. I grew up in Roseville. I remember my parents taking me to the fire station every year around this time for Booya. It was such a big deal and I just couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t like it one bit. I wonder if they still make it there. I live in northern Minnesota now (lutefisk and lefse country). I haven’t heard of Booya in years. Maybe I’d appreciate it now. Homemade stock, meat and vegetables — what’s not to like?

  4. Author

    sdoeden, yes, the Roseville Fire Department still does their annual booya. It was on October 4 this year. http://www.cityofroseville.com/index.aspx?NID=1769

  5. Thanks Lori. What a tradition that booya is.

  6. My Dad and Uncle used to cook Booya in St. Paul for an annual event… start at about 6:00 in the morning and cook it all day… so we recently decided to re-establish the tradition here in northern MN… we’ll be cookin’ up the Booya on October 9th at about 6:00 in the morning… 2nd annual!

  7. i would like to get some booya recipes? thank you!

Trackbacks for this post

  1. [...] Jewish calendar’s autumn holiday of Sukkot and the St. Paul ritual of communal stew known as booya. The stew (kosher, of course) was dished up at the price of $5 for all-you-can eat to dozens of [...]

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