A hobo supper isn’t fast food.

Roughly 40 fruit harvest cans lined with corn cobs are placed over a wood fire. The cans are then filled with cabbage, potatoes, onions, rutabagas, carrots or “whatever we can find,” said Carlene Zaremba.

Zaremba said the cans are topped with ham, polish sausage and kielbasa, and a large carrot is placed on top. When the carrot is tender, usually two or three hours later, the food is transferred to a roaster, and dinner is served.

The tradition of slow food continues Wednesday, Aug. 21, when St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Shennington hosts its annual Hobo Supper from 4-7 p.m. at the church on Hwy. 21. Tickets are $10, and the meal comes with bread, beverage and dessert.

Zaremba, one of the supper organizers, expects 200-300 people will be fed.

“It’s really a community a event,” she said. “We get people from all over.”

The tradition dates back to the mid-1970s, when Gordon and Laura Snyder brought home the idea from a church they attended while living in Hayward. They discussed it with their son-in-law, Ron Kemp, who served on the St. Peter’s parish council and thought it would be a good fund-raiser for the church.

Church members began collecting metal cans and held the first supper in 1977. The dinner was such a success that the congregation made it and annual event.

About 10 years later, Duane Olson took over as event coordinator, a duty he assumed for 25 years. He wrote out an organization routine, coordinated food donations and assigned tasks. One of the most important tasks was finding sweet corn, which is always less than 24 hours old when placed into the pots.

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In past years, the ingredients were separated buffet-style for guests. Now the food is left in the pots and people can pick out what they want.

“I love the rutabaga, because I don’t have to cook it myself,” Zaremba said.

Marian Christensen, another organizer, said, “I stick with the meat, carrots and potatoes.”

The supper carries on without Olson, who died in 2017. Christensen described Olson as someone who “volunteered for everything,” and Zaremba said Olson “missed his calling by not becoming a pastor.”

Zaremba said other volunteers are stepping up.

“We now have a younger group that is being the chefs,” she said. “The torch is passed.”

Christensen said the event is held just once a year because of the time involved. However, she said there’s value in cooking slow food at least once a year.

“There’s plenty of time to socialize,” she said.

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Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at steve.rundio@lee.net.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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