MULLIGAN STEW by Tom Bormann
It’s the end of summer vacation, county fairs are over and school will be starting in a day or two, but there is still time for one last party before the daily routine begins again.
In the tiny village of St. Joe (officially Saint Joseph) located on Highway 169 on the southern edge of Kossuth County a tradition which is known as Mulligan Stew has been carried on for well over fifty years now. Folks from near and far have been gathering on the third Wednesday of August for longer than anyone can remember to enjoy food and fellowship of the local people. The menu features-What else?- a concoction dreamed up by old time members of the local Knights of Columbus council 3420 back in 1957 and dubbed “Mulligan Stew“.
At first it was meant to be a fundraiser to help with expenses for the local baseball team and the stew was cooked in a cast iron tub outdoors over a wood fire. Several men gathered in a circle peeling potatoes while the meat and vegetables were being prepared. Once everything was in the kettle there was time for a baseball game with the American Legion members of nearby Livermore. The evening was spent playing cards and visiting while enjoying a piece of pie or maybe a cold beer.
In later years memories of that first party led to making it an annual event and as the crowd of people became larger each time, more kettles had to be added and the recipe enlarged. The circles of potato peelers grew so large that an electric peeler had to be employed as the recipe now calls for 1200 pounds of potatoes. A pneumatic operated french fry cutter designed by a member now slices them. Electric slicers, instead of paring knives, began cutting up vegetables and the row of cast iron kettles grew from a few small ones to ten large ones with a total capacity of over 500 gallons, enough to feed 2000 people. More than 1000 pounds of beef are now used along with pickup-truck loads of vegetables.
As with all small rural communities, The local residents are older and fewer, so modern methods have to be adopted, but the stew is still cooked outdoors in cast iron tubs although the fuel is now LP gas. The baseball team doesn’t exist anymore but the proceeds of the evening are used to help support St Joseph Catholic Church locally and Sacred Heart Church in Livermore as well as the many charities sponsored by the Knights of Columbus in Iowa and beyond.
The pie stand still offers pies baked by the parish ladies, the card games are still an attraction, and other games have been added through the years. A hand made quilt has been a popular raffle item for many years now as well as a country store featuring garden produce and baked goods, This year’s event will take place on August 15th, the third Wednesday of the month ,with serving beginning at 6:00 PM. If you come you will still be able to enjoy a cold beer but don’t come late because we always run out of stew.