Booyah!

Since the 1990s, “booyah” has had a new meaning:

an exclamatory statement, often said when someone is extremely overjoyed. Often people do a hand movement simultaneously as they say ‘Booyah’(clinching fist and thrusting their elbow downward vertically).

Not in Mona Faye’s kitchen, however. This is the official “booyah.”

booyah

I have to admit that when I first joined the Lewis clan for their traditional New Year’s Supper, I thought I had misheard the name of this soup. Surely, it was “bouillion.” But when I got this little wedding gift from Mona Faye — a hand-written recipe book filled with family treasures — I realized that I didn’t mishear and they didn’t misspeak.

The tradition in my own slice of Lewis is to make this soup as soon as the weather turns brisk. Soups are really amazing. They are easy, requiring only one person’s presence somewhere in the house. They are cheap; I think I made a whole week’s worth of meals just today for about $5. They feel special; in contemporary times we don’t make a soup every day like our grandmothers did. The best recipes are the old ones — the kind you get over the phone or you remember without peeking at the instructions (notice my husband’s additional handwritten notes for the timing of each step and transcribed from a phone conversation.). They are crowd-pleasers; from adults to kids to toothless babes — everybody can enjoy soup. And they are really, really good for you.

Turns out, “booyahs” are way, way bigger than I realized. They even have their own wikipedia entry! The word comes from Green Bay, Wisconsin around 1905 (same year as our Perfection Salad made the news). Here’s the story:

Lester (Rentmeester) relates recollections of his schoolteacher father, Andrew, probably the “pioneer” of the chicken booyah supper. “At the old Finger Road School where he taught, funds were always in short supply,” he recalls. “So my father hit on the idea of a community picnic to raise money for the school. He went around to parents and neighbors, gathering up beef and chickens for the traditional Belgian soup that would be the main dish at the benefit affair. And he also went down to the office of the old Green Bay Gazette, looking for publicity.” The writer handling the news of the benefit picnic, so the story goes, asked what would be served. “Bouillon — we will have bouillon,” came the reply, with the word pronounced properly in French. “The young reporter wrote it down as he heard it,” Rentmeester relates. “It came out ‘booyah’ in the paper. It was booyah the first time it was served at Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Church — an affair my father also originated — and that’s what people have called it ever since.”

The Green Bay recipe doesn’t really cut it compared to Gramma Meyers’ Missouri version. But then I found this little letter from 1997:

From the Walloon point of view, the original “Booyah” was bouillon– a broth made from boiling a chicken with onion and celery, salt and pepper. The chicken was taken from the pot when sufficiently cooked and used as the main course of the meal, and the broth served in individual bowls. An additional bowl of rice was put on the table with each person adding what he wanted, if any, to the broth. This was related to me by a woman of Belgian descent, born in Kewaunee County in 1895, who lived to be 95 years old. As a young person, she had never seen the style of “booyah” as we know it today. With the Belgians’ penchant for frugalness, nothing was wasted. Bits of leftover vegetables gradually were added to the chicken broth– and later, the chicken, too– to make a more flavorful soup, almost a one-dish meal.

So our Great Gramma Meyers’ version is the authentic Booyah! Impressive. Even down to the description that it feeds “a crowd!” I’m dying to know how it traveled down the Mighty Mississipp so far in such perfect condition. Booyah for Booyah!

6 Responses to “Booyah!”

  1. My Man, That’s Who! : A Time to Laugh Says:

    [...] day at home playing with silly boys and a yarpy dog while his wife makes his favorite meal: Chicken Booyah, PB&J (Peter Pan and grape jelly only, please), and A&W Root Beer followed by chocolate [...]

  2. Daniel Rentmeester Says:

    HERES A BOOYAH RECIPE FROM ANDREW RENTMESTERS[ THE FATHER OF BOOYAH] GRANDSON DAN RENTMEESTER.

    20 GALLON BOOYAH RECIPE

    PUT 10 GALLONS OF WATER INTO BOOYAH KETTLE
    START A FIRE UNTIL WATER BOILS
    ADD 30 LBSCHICKEN-5 OR 6 STEWING CHICKENS
    ADD 5 LBS BEEF CUT UP
    ADD OX TAIL OR SOUP BONE
    ADD 2 HEADS OF CABBAGE CUT UP
    ADD 6 LBS YELLOW ONIONS CUT UP
    ADD 1 SMALL PACKAGE OF SPLIT PEAS
    ADD 2-16OZ-CANS OF NORTHERN BEANS
    ADD 1 LARGE CAN OF TOMATO JUICE
    BOIL THEN SIMMER FOR 2 HOURS UNTIL CHICKEN IS TENDER
    TAKE CHICKEN-BEEF-OX TAIL-AND SOUP BONE OUT AND DE-BONE CHICKEN AND TAKE MEAT OFF OF THE SOUP BONE
    ADD 10 LBS CARROTS CUTUP
    ADD 6 BUNCHES OF CELERY CUTUP
    SIMMER3/4 OF AN HOUR UNTIL CARROTS ARE TENDER
    ADD 30 TO 35 LBS POTATOES CUTUP
    ADD THE DEBONED CHICKEN AND BEEF BACK INTO KETTLE
    SIMMER UNTIL POTATOES ARE DONE
    ADD 4-16 OZ-CANS OF PEAS
    ADD 1 CUP SALT AND 4 TABLESPOONS PEPPER
    ADD LEMON JUICE TO TASTE

  3. L Panure Says:

    Now we’rea talking ~~ it’s not real booyah without the OXTAIL !!

    The “Panure Family Booyah” was usually on a Sunday in late September, and the veggie chopping and cooking would start around 6 AM. Dad even had his own booyah kettle, which looked like an oil oil drum with wheels and a stove-pipe coming out the side. Relatives from all sides came over during the course of the day … what a memory!

  4. GLEN CAMERON Says:

    I can remember the fund raisers at Snail Lake school in Mounds View/ New Brighton. Now, 60 years I’m wondering if it would fly in Lake Placid NY.

  5. Mike Dietz Says:

    I also lived in New Brighton, MN. In those days, late 1940-50s, the booya was sponsored and run by the old Catholic Church on old Hwy 8. The large pots cooked over night. The bones were not taken out of the stew, and if you were lucky, you even could get a CHICKEN FOOT in your booya. You could eat the booya at large tables set up on the church grounds, and you could also buy a Mason jar or two to take home for later. The recipe they used seemed much like the one above, except that I think there was a little bit of curry powder or Worchester sauce and sugar thrown in. It was great!

  6. Mike Dietz Says:

    OPPS! I forgot that there was a lot of corn in it!

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