Verboort Sausage Festival
- Jim Dixon
The Verboort Sausage Festival is a true chowhound's paradise. The tiny Oregon community (about 15 miles west of Portland) takes over the local sausage factory to make a special grind of the beef and pork links, then smokes them over an alder fire. I wrote the piece below in '97, and have updated the info for this year...I'll see you there
About this time of year, when leaves choke the gutters, the days shorten to a few brief hours of gray, and the cold wet wind reminds me that winter really is coming, I think of Verboort. Not the tiny Dutch-Catholic farming community itself, but its annual sausage feed. I cant think of any better way to brace against the impending gloom than an afternoon of gluttony, and theres no better place for that than Verboort.
Imagine a low-ceiling basement lined with long tables, every one filled with a cross-section of the Northwest population. Youre seated between Goretex and Polartec-clad singles from Beaverton and a grizzled logger from Cornelius, decked out in a clean but worn zip-front hickory shirt, jeans staubbed off short, and slip-on Romeos. Despite the cultural disparity, youre all focused on the same thing: a steaming platter of smoky sausages, part of the endless stream of food that issues from the noisy cafeteria kitchen.
Along with the sausage there are bowls of sauerkraut like you never tasted, fluffy mashed potatoes with gravy, soft dinner rolls right from the oven, green beans grown a stones throw from where you sit, and applesauce made from this years crop of Gravensteins. This is comfort food for the long night of winter, food for hibernating. Just when you thik you cant eat another bite, youll have to choose between lemon and apple pie.
The festival is the annual fund-raiser for the parish school, and every bit of food has been grown, donated, put up, or, in the case of the sausage, ground right here in Verboort. It all started in 1934, when church members made about 200 pounds of sausage and 10 gallons of sauerkraut for about 150 hungry neighbors. This year as many as 10,000 people will participate in the all-you-can-eat dinner, and for one Saturday in November this little community is packed as tight as the Sunset Highway at rush hour. You can expect to wait a bit, but theres plenty to do.
Heres how it works. Buy a numbered ticket (dinners are $12, $11 for seniors and $5.50 for children under 12), and check the tote board to see how far out you are. The ticket sellers can tell you about how long youll be waiting. Then choose an activity to pass the time. Theres a bingo game if youre felling lucky, or you can just buy a raffle ticket to win the product of the local quilting bee. The bake sale is tempting, but if you buy something save it for the next day (it may actually be several days before youre ready to eat again). There are also homemade candies, Christmas ornaments, and house plants for sale, and school-carnival type games for the kids. Or you can wander through the old church and check out the stained glass and icons.
When your numbers up, hit the dining room. Youll be seated with strangers, but most are friendly and anyway, theres not much small talk because everyones eating. Sample everything but focus on the sausage and kraut. Forget about caloriesyou can do penance later, and besides, this food is only available one night out of the whole year.
Drive out Highway 26 west toward Hillsboro. Take the North Plains exit, turn left (south), follow signs toward Forest Grove, and take a right on Zion Church Road (the first traffic light). When it ends, turn right again, and youll see the stand of big Sequoia trees that marks Verboort straight ahead. A farm boy will direct you to parking. For more information visit verboort.org/dinner or call 503-357-3860.
If you cant make the dinner, get up early and get some to go. Bulk sausage sales ($4/lb) begin at 9:00 am, but the line starts to form about 6:00 and the stuffs usually gone by 11:00. Load up, it freezes well, and be sure to pick up a few quarts of kraut.