Harvest time on the prairies means Manitoba’s oldest culinary tradition comes alive: the fall supper. From mid-September to mid-November, rural churches and community halls open their doors and offer buffets of down-home cooking, served with a side of Manitoba’s famous hospitality.
Fall suppers are traditionally fundraising events, lead by ladies of the community who can cook like nobody’s business. Throughout the season, over 75 suppers happen in towns and hamlets across the southern prairie, with dozens more in large centers like Winnipeg and Brandon.
Unless you grew up in rural Manitoba or have a family connection there, you may have never attended one of these autumnal feasts.
But you need to.
Trust us: fall suppers are not a fading tradition. Considering current culinary trends, they are actually way cooler than they realize. Here’s why:
The Original Pop Up
Pop up dining is all the rage in urban foodie circles. Fall suppers have always been hip to the notion that one-night-only food events create buzz. And like today’s pop-up restaurants, fall suppers often have multiple sittings. And advance tickets are always recommended. The difference? Fall suppers are not exclusive—you could be dining with a hundred people. And the menu is never a surprise—turkey, potatoes, dressing, and meatballs are always expected.
The carrots are from aunt Ruth’s organic veggie garden. The meat is provided by the farmer seated beside you. The raspberries are harvested from the berry farm down the road. While it’s super on trend for urban chefs and foodies to organize farm-themed dining events, Manitoba has been doing this sort of thing for over a century.
There’s no extolling the virtue of sourcing local ingredients. The cooks won’t Instagram their pies and tag them #fromscratch. The five-ingredient rule goes without saying. Fall suppers don’t have to jump on the whole foods wagon, because, frankly, they never fell off.
Heritage Foods Proud
According to food blogs and magazines, time-honoured recipes reflecting heritage are where it’s at, but fall suppers have known this all along. In Ukrainian communities, the ever-faithful perogy and holopchi are a must-try at fall suppers. In francophone towns, the pies rule: both the savoury meat version and sweet maple sugar version.
Harvest Table Chic
Harvest tables are taking home and restaurant décor by storm. Meanwhile, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at a long wooden table has always been standard practice at a fall supper. The communal vibe created when dining close quarters is a highlight of the experience.
In a generation of increasingly busy family schedules, fall suppers honour the simple life. They remind us to celebrate the land, to cherish community, and to connect with loved ones. Amen to that.
How does a foodie find a fall supper to attend? Our good friend Orest Kinasevych does an impressive job of compiling an up-to-date list of rural fall suppers on his blog. Dining with Donald highlights Winnipeg dates not to be missed. Or, do it the old-school way: check for posters on community bulletin boards.
Tell us about your favourite community’s fall supper and what makes it special.