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Terese Allen has authored several books about the pleasures of regional cuisines in and around the Badger State (see links). A Green Bay native of Belgian descent, Terese shared her expertise with recently:

My father Norbert was a 100 percent “first-generation” Walloon Belgian, although I'm sure there was some Flemish Belgian mixed in there, and utterly loved booyah. Considered himself an expert. It was what he ate on the last day of his life. I kid you not. His family name was really Hallaux, got changed when the boat landed, or so they tell me. He could even swear in Belgian.

Oh my gosh, asking me that question is like asking, “What is the meaning of the universe?” Have you got about 10-12 hours? Not only was I weaned on the stuff, but it's one of the most fascinating foodways in the state. I talk about it in a presentation I do about the state's culinary traditions, and have written a bit about it. My dream is to spend the next 10 years researching and writing the definitive history and lore of booyah.

Defining what makes booyah booyah is tricky, controversial and fun. People will argue until the Holsteins come home about what the proper ingredients are. Be that as it may, I have some strong opinions about what gives it its distinctive flavor. Several things:

  • A variety of vegetables, with onions, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, beans and cabbage being necessary -- and peas, corn, etc. being the subject of great debate
  • Stewing chickens (not fryers)
  • Long, long, long, long, long simmering
  • Cooked outdoors
  • Cooked in vast quantities

Of all of the above, I'd say it's a mixture of veggies, the stewing chickens and the long cooking time that are absolutely essential when you're talking REAL booyah flavor. I've tasted smaller, indoor versions that were right-on. I've tasted some with beef, some with rice, some with a punch of lemon juice or Worchestershire sauce, some with skin and bones, some without, etc, etc, etc. I scoff at the white meat only, no fat versions and much prefer the smoky smell/flavor you get from outdoor cooking. Herbs? Not in most booyah recipes I know.

Of course, once you get the essentials down, you still need oyster crackers. Can't forget the oyster crackers.

Because it's typically made in 10 or 20-gallon batches, cooked outdoors over a wood fire, and worked on by several people at once, things can vary a bit from batch to batch.

Here's a recipe for an indoor, “small” amount that my sister Judy Ullmer once put together -- under protest, because she says she makes it a “little different each time.”

It should cook for a long, long time, long enough for the veggies to get rather "mushy" and the meat to cook into shreds. That may sound like over-cooking, but that is the flavor and texture of real booyah...almost like a stew.

This recipe is in my book, Fresh Market Wisconsin (Amherst Press, 1993). It makes about 3-4 gallons (yup, that's a "small" version!), enough for your guests to take some home with them, which is what my family always does. Good luck! And be sure to serve it with oyster crackers and some good Wisconsin beer.

Chicken Booyah Recipe

1 pound beef stew meat, in 1 piece
2 pounds onions, chopped
Bay leaves, salt and pepper
1 large stewing chicken (6 lbs), cut up
1 bunch celery, chopped
1 pound carrots, chopped
1 pound cabbage, shredded
1/2 pound green beans, chopped
1 can (28 ounces) chopped tomatoes (or use fresh, if you've got good ones)
1/2 pound corn kernels
1/2 pound green peas
2 pounds red potatoes, chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
1 or more tablespoons soy sauce
Additional salt and pepper to taste
2-4 bouillon cubes (optional)

Place beef in very large pot with some of the onion, a few bay leaves, and some salt and pepper. Add enough cold water to fill the pot 1/3 full. Bring to simmer, skim surface as needed and cook 1/2 hour. Add chicken parts, more water (to cover all the meat) and a little more salt. Continue to simmer 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare all the vegetables as described.

When meats are tender, lift them out of the broth. While meat is cooling, add the prepared vegetables, including the remaining onion. Add one type of vegetable at a time, bringing the broth back to a simmer after each addition (my brother-in-law says that if you add all the vegetables too fast, the broth tastes wrong...go figure).

Remove bones and skin from cooled chicken and beef. Chop the meats and add to the pots after all the veggies have been added. Simmer the soup at least two hours---longer preferred. Water may be added during the cooking process if necessary.

Season with lemon juice, soy sauce, beef bouillon (if desired) and salt and pepper to taste.


For its 2003-04 public service campaign, classicwisconsin launches a public awareness effort to the stem the tide of bad booyah.

Join us in ridding the world of this scourge. Volunteer today. Better booyah today, tomorrow, and for a long time after that.


Terese Allen
Terese Allen, food columnist for Wisconsin Trails magazine and Madison's Isthmus newspaper, is a cooking teacher and former chef whose passion is seasonal cooking and regional foodways. Visit her Web site, Taste of Wisconsin.


Stinks So Good... The Strong Cheese Survives. Read an excerpt from Wisconsin's Hometown Flavors, by Terese Allen (Trails Media, 2nd edition, 2003)



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