Throughout the summer, the Toledo area is home to ethnic festivals full of music, dancing, and traditional treats. What does it take to feed the thousands who attend these cultural celebrations?
Connie Mynihan coordinates the pastry workshops for the Greek-American Festival being held Sept. 8 to 10 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 740 N. Superior St., in downtown Toledo. Food preparations began in June with tiropita (phyllo-wrapped pies), proceeded through July and August with baklava and cookies, and will finish with diples (honey-dipped pastry spirals) just in time for the party. Savory items include 13,100 dolmathes, Ms. Mynihan said.
“The ladies do all the work ... and the gentlemen,” Ms. Mynihan quickly added. And children help, too. “They come down with Grandma, and we absolutely love it.”
The Birmingham Ethnic Festival, celebrating Hungarian culture, welcomed thousands of people to East Toledo, along Consaul Street, on Aug. 19 and 20, said Kris Ruedy, one of the food preparation coordinators from St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 1880 Genesee St.
Volunteers prepared 800 kifli (apricot or nut-filled cookies) and 30 2-foot long beigli (walnut-swirled breads) during one Saturday morning baking session in August, said Kathy Singlar who was coordinating the project with a room full of dedicated helpers and workers.
“We always get a nice group” of volunteers of all ages, said Ms. Ruedy. “I can’t thank them enough for coming.”
Still more classic dishes were prepared at Calvin United Church of Christ, 1946 Bakewell St., the morning before the festival. Two hundred pounds of kolbasz (sausage), 240 crescent-shaped moon cakes, and 350 crepes for palacsinta were just part of it. In the afternoon, volunteers were scheduled to prepare home-style noodles, using 250 5-pound bags of flour and 90 dozen eggs.
“Everything is a lot of work,” said Betsi Sendi while scooping the meat-and-rice filling as her group of friends prepared 600 cabbage rolls. But “we love our church. We’ll do anything for her.”
At All Saints Catholic Church, 628 Lime City Rd., Rossford, “some helpers are children, some are in their 80s; it [was] definitely a parish-wide effort” to feed the 1,000-plus attendees who came to the church’s festival on July 28 and 29, volunteer Julie Jardine said.
Over the course of successive Monday evenings in June, 10,000 pierogi were made by hand, both potato and cabbage-filled. The menu also included kielbasa, pigs in a blanket (pork-stuffed cabbage rolls), kolaches, and conventional fair foods. But “the ethnic stuff is what brings people in,” said the Rev. Anthony Recker.
“Families still make these dishes at home,” he said, though they may reserve them for special occasions, like festivals.
But “the traditions are alive and well. The traditions are still there.”
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