|Place of origin||United States|
|Region or state||Upper Midwest|
|Main ingredients||Meat (commonly beef, chicken, or pork), vegetables (carrots, rutabaga, celery, potatoes), seasonings|
Booyah (also spelled booya, bouja, boulyaw, or bouyou) is a thick soup of presumably Belgian origin made throughout the Upper Midwestern United States. Booyah often requires up to two days and multiple cooks to prepare; it is cooked in specially designed "booyah kettles" and usually meant to serve hundreds or even thousands of people. The name also refers to the event surrounding the meal.
In cooking booyah, one makes a base or broth derived from meat bones, to which vegetables are added. Beef, chicken, and pork are popular varieties of meat for booyah (with all three often added in the same kettle), with vegetables such as carrots, rutabaga, celery, and potatoes also in the mix. A wide variety of seasonings are used, sometimes lowered into the kettle in a cheesecloth bag.
Typical large-scale "booyah kettles" can hold more than 50 US gallons (190 L) of the stew, and are made from steel to withstand direct heat. Some community groups and churches have their own kettles, generally custom-made for charity events, while other groups rely on municipal kettles.
The name "booyah" is thought to have derived from the French language words for "to boil" (bouillir), and subsequently broth (bouillon). The spelling with an H is attributed to the phonetic spelling by Wallonian immigrants from Belgium. The Dictionary of American Regional English attributes the term to French Canadian immigrants; others attribute it to a derivation from the Provençal seafood dish bouillabaisse.
An article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on October 29, 1976, speculating on the origin of the spelling and related fundraiser event, reads:
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 traditional stew is still made in northern and northeastern Wisconsin, greater Minnesota and Michigan's Upper Peninsula at church picnics, county fairs, VFW gatherings, and in smaller amounts at private gatherings, sometimes combined with booyah cooking contests.
The Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota, has five kettles with a total yield of 350 US gallons (1,300 L) of booyah. The kettles have been around for several decades, but, as of December 2003, there is controversy regarding the safety of the burners used to heat them.
This is also done in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, although, I've only seen it on a smaller scale than the huge kettles mentioned above. The Booyahs I witnessed in the U.P. were hunters' stews made with all sorts of wild game contributed by local residents. I don't believe it was known from one Booyah gathering to the next exactly what types of meat would be in the stew. It seemed to depend upon the luck or skill of the hunters that season.
- "Episode 3: "Food and Family"". The Meaning of Food. Public Broadcasting Service. http://www.pbs.org/opb/meaningoffood/about/pop-episode3.shtml. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
- Trimble, Steve (June 2004). "Memorable Minnesota Meals - Part II: More about Hot Dish and Booya". Dayton's Bluff District Forum (St. Paul, Minnesota: Dayton's Bluff (District 4) Community Council). Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- Defnet, Mary Ann (December 30, 1997). "Origin of Booyah". Wisconsin's French Connection - Kitchen. University of Wisconsin–Green Bay. Retrieved 2011-01-16.