Photo by Eric Stauffer
Father Tom Liebler, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, presents piping-hot golabki.
BETHALTO — The Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Bethalto was established in 1945. In 1960, the parish began a yearly fundraiser and offered a buffet-style dinner with a variety of foods; thus the name “smorgasbord” was chosen to describe their dinner.
The menu of the smorgasbord has been changed from the original 1960 offering, but the one constant food that has remained throughout these 54 years is “pigs-in-the-blanket.”
These Slovakian stuffed cabbage rolls, or “holubky” as they are called in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, were first made by Viola Fabjance, a longtime (but now deceased) member of the Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish.
Viola was Slovakian and shared her family recipe and cooking talents with the other women in the parish. Viola taught Jackie and Rudy Papa to make the pigs-in-the-blanket and they have carried on the tradition for the past 35 years. Rudy passed away recently, but Jackie and her “cabbage committee” continue to parboil and devein the cabbage and get it ready for Lori and Mel Czeschin and their committee, who add the “stuffing” inside the cabbage rolls and cook them.
Stuffed cabbage rolls are a common ethnic cuisine of the Balkans, Central, Northern and Eastern Europe, as well as the Middle East, and date back thousands of years. Typically, the cabbage rolls are cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. In Europe, the filling is traditionally based around beef, pork or lamb with garlic, onion and spices. Rice or barley, eggs, mushrooms and vegetables often are included. Tomato-based sauces are typical in Eastern Europe. Cabbage leaves are stuffed with the filling then baked, simmered or steamed.
If one wanted to further research pigs-in-the-blanket, they would find a long list of countries that prepare these tasty cabbage rolls:
- Bulgaria: “sarmi,” made of veal and pork
- Croatia: “sarma,” made of beef, pork and veal
- Jewish: “holishkes,” made of beef chuck
- Lithuania: “balandelial,” made of beef, lamb and pork
- Poland: “golabki,” made of beef
- Romania: “sarmale,” made of pork
- Slovakia: “holubky,” made of beef and pork
According to parish “historians” Virginia Forehand and Jeanne Berghoff, the original smorgasbord menu included roast beef, fried chicken, Italian spaghetti, turkey, dressing, homemade salads, desserts and, of course, pigs-in-the-blanket. Back in the 1960s, the dinner was held in the church basement with linen tablecloths and china plates with elaborate table decorations.
The current smorgasbord menu includes turkey, dressing, ham, pigs-in-the-blanket, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, tossed salad and desserts. The turkeys are prepared by individual parishioners in their home and brought to the church. The dressing is homemade by the “dressing committee” and the desserts are all homemade and donated by the parishioners.
The smorgasbord is a fun way for the parishioners to work together on a parish fund-raiser. The dinner will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, in the school gym, directly behind the church. The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-10, with children younger than 5 free. Carry-outs are available. In addition to the dinner, a bazaar will feature handcrafted items and a $1 raffle with a first prize of $500, a second prize of $250, a third and fourth prize of $100 and a fifth prize of $50.