Part IV - "We're makin' soup!"
 

It's Thursday evening, and Mom is ready to call it a night. As she crawls into bed, I am tempted to just forget my plan to see how the soup is made. It's only nine-thirty, but I'm a little tired after the mid-afternoon drive to get to Arenzville, and sleeping sounds like a lot more fun than watching boiling kettles. But curiosity about the soup-making still lingers, and I grab up the camera bag and tell Mom that I'll be back after a couple hours.

The town park is a different scene than the one I left. A yellow glow bathes the area around the shelters, and there is a small cluster of men gathered around a table near the kettles. Steam rises from the line of boiling pots, and a light breeze carries the smoke away from them. The soup cooking crew has traditionally included only men, and I'm a little nervous that my intruding camera and I won't be welcome.

Boiling kettles

Men sitting on tables

Waiting for the right moment to start adding vegetables, the soup cooking crew starts their work around 9:00 pm. From left: Tony Thomas (partially obscured by smoke), Ken "Joe" Huey, Myron Beard, Craig Gregory, Rus Lutkehus, Gary Blum, John Barrett, and Mike Beck (far right, in the background).

But Rus Lutkehus gives me a warm greeting as I walk up, and he and I reminisce briefly about the summers we spent detasseling corn at Burrus Seed Farms. Don Wessler helps by asking if I know everyone there and starts introducing before I have time to admit that I can't come up with all of their names. Mingling around the kettles are Gary Blum, John Barrett, Myron Beard, Tony Thomas, Craig Gregory, Joe Lovekamp, the Huey brothers -- David (Hondo) and Ken (Joe), and Don's college friend Harry Bentsen (who lives in Springfield but for the last six years has come to help make burgoo).

As the night wears on (and I stay longer than the couple of hours I had planned), some of the men go home and others join the group: Mike Schone, Lee Burrus, Tim LeFebvre, Mike Beck, Gale Kleinschmidt, Steve Stocker, Marc Carls, Gary Beard, and Tony Clark.

The beef chunks have already been added to the kettles, and they are all cooking at a rolling boil. While they wait for the signal to add the first of the vegetables, the group moves a work table into place and stacks wood for the fires.

Whole potatoes are the first to go in when the broth is ready, and one of the men uses a forklift to bring the tank full of potatoes slowly into position next to the work table.

Several buckets are washed and prepared for use to dispense the vegetables, and some scales are brought out to weigh each bucket. Hondo seems to have the recipe memorized, and he calculates in his head how many pounds of potatoes must go into each kettle. "Sixty-three," he announces, and then the group decides to measure out the spuds in twenty-one pound increments.

Testing meat doneness

Checking for doneness -- Tony Thomas examines a chunk of beef from the boiling kettle.

 

Hondo lifts a bucket

Potatoes for the soup are drawn from the tank by Hondo Huey as Joe Lovekamp watches.

The men form a sort of bucket brigade and start transporting the potatoes to the kettles. They put one bucketful in each kettle and start down the row again, repeating it until each kettle gets its dose of 63 pounds of potatoes.

"Out of our way!" Rus bellows with playful importance as he dodges one the other guys. "We're makin' soup!"

Crew moves fast

Continued ...

   

 
  © 2015 Molly Daniel  

This page last modified: 08/22/2015