Denise Falk can’t pin down the exact number of borscht lunches Bethany Mennonite Church has served.
It’s a lot, she says, and goes back to the early days of the church, which has celebrated its 50th anniversary.
“It’s been going on for as long as I can remember,” says Falk, whose mother has been making borscht for the event for decades.
She took over the organization of it this year for the first time — the year everything has had to change.
The famous borscht and brown bread will be sold as a drive-thru and pickup event, which allows the traditional fundraiser to go ahead, and also involves church members who are accustomed to coming together for the event.
“This is one of those things our church community loves to do,” says Falk.
Church members will be missing out on the socializing part of the event, sitting at tables and chatting over lunch, as well as working together to serve the meal.
“We’ll miss that, and we can’t replace it,” she says, adding it’s still a great opportunity for the church community to work together, while putting on the event with fewer volunteers required the day of the sale.
The borscht and bread is always made at home, in the kitchens of the people who contribute to the lunch, so that won’t change.
For more than a week, the baking and borsht preparations have been underway. The big difference, which will actually make the sale easier, is that the soup will be brought to the church in litre containers, and sold that way, rather than all being poured into big soup pots and served in the church.
Because not all church members use the exact same recipe, there could be slight variations in the borsch flavour, Falk explains, although they will be “essentially the same.”
The popularity of the Mennonite version is due to the addition of dill to the traditional ingredients of beef, beef broth, tomato, cabbage, carrots and potatoes, she says.
“The dill gives it the most amazing flavour and smell, and makes it unique and different from the Ukrainian borscht. It is definitely a Mennonite flavour.”
The brown bread that is served with borscht is not only a Mennonite recipe, but is unique to Bethany, Falk says.
“People love that bread,” she says. “It’s baked in large tomato juice cans, so that it’s round. It’s completely unique. I don’t know who started this, but round, upright loaves bread is our tradition, and it’s delicious.”
The logistics of the sale are simple, she says. There will be traffic control volunteers, and lanes in the parking lot to place orders, pay and drive ahead for pickup.
“We’re anticipating it will go smoothly. There shouldn’t be any problems,” she says. “The plan is to keep people going through in a safe and efficient manner.”
The funds raised will support various church projects and missions, including ministries within the church community, and the making of quilts which are distributed around the world, says Falk.
The sale is this Saturday, Nov. 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
One litre of borsch is $10, a loaf of brown bread $5, and exact cash or a cheque is asked for, says Falk.