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7 things to know before you eat at the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale

The Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale features Mennonite food.

That may not be what you think it is.

You may struggle to find chicken and noodles or fried chicken like you would at Das Dutchman Essenhaus. You will find egg rolls, curry and haystacks at the sale, which is Friday night and Saturday at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds, 17746 C.R. 34, Goshen.

The pulled pork sandwich at the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale doesn't come sauced. Flavor 574 photo/Marshall V. King
The pulled pork sandwich at the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale doesn’t come sauced. Flavor 574 photo/Marshall V. King

The Bounthanh egg rolls do have a Mennonite connection since churches adopted the Chiu family to help its members come to this country and establish the business in Bremen.

Curry — and a number of other international ethnic foods — come back to the U.S. with Mennonite cooks who served as relief workers or missionaries overseas. Russian Mennonites make a different style of food and also offer it at the sale.

A fried apple fritter at the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale. Flavor 574 photo/Marshall V. King
A fried apple fritter at the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale. Flavor 574 photo/Marshall V. King

Those haystacks are essentially a taco salad Amish folks got their hands on decades ago and added crumbled crackers and liquid cheese. Then it got named for the stack of straw in a field after threshers are done. It’s an Amish/Mennonite food and now there’s a breakfast version with eggs and sausage gravy. You can get the original on Friday night and the breakfast version Saturday.

Volunteers make quilts and crafts for the annual September event. But they also make food. Lots of food.

Here are seven things you need to know about eating at this fall festival:

  1. It’s for charity. The money raised at the two-day event supports the relief work of Mennonite Central Committee around the world. So that may diminish the guilt of overeating. The phrase “pigging out for Jesus” has occasionally been uttered in relation to the sale.
  2. There will be lines. On Friday night, lines will form soon after booths open at 5 p.m. You may want to get food at a short line while you wait in others. Or get food for the kids and go back in for more. On Saturday morning, the line for pancakes and sausage is historically a thing in which you will wait. Be prepared.
  3. Yes, there’s pie. On Saturday, you can purchase and take home a homemade pie. You may even find a rare one such as ground cherry.
  4. Be prepared for the food you want to take home. At the sale, you can buy hunks of cheese and a bucket of lard. You can get fresh and smoked sausage and a dozen donuts. You may want to fill a stroller. Or a small wagon. And you may want to bring a cooler. You can get that food on Friday nights (a change from years ago) or Saturday.
  5. You could sweat before eating. Many people do the 5k Run for Relief and then have breakfast. You can too, if you register at the sale Friday night or Saturday morning. The 8 a.m. race also has a 2k walk. Food sales open at 7 a.m. and are mostly done by noon or early afternoon.
  6. You can learn as you eat. This year, the sale will offer a plate of Iraqi rice pilaf as a simplified version of what’s eaten in particular by Syrians in refugee camps. It’s one way MCC is demonstrating the work it’s doing overseas and where the proceeds from the sale go.
  7. My favorites are simple. For years, I’ve adored the pulled pork sandwiches (smoked, unsauced meat) and apple fritters. I like fresh donuts, but can get them other places. The way that this pork and these battered, fried apples are done delight me every year.

Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. to early afternoon Saturday.

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