Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Local News

January 20, 2006

Don't mock the turtle soup

Mock turtle soup.

Mention it as nearby as Cincinnati or Shelbyville and you may get a questionable look. For reasons lost over the last century, the soup that's been sold at church festivals and other functions in the greater Batesville area for generations is virtually unknown in other parts of the region.

Pat Schrank, who helps make the hearty meal for the annual Holy Family Catholic Church fund-raiser, has a theory that an early settler came through New Orleans before moving to the area and brought the Cajun-style recipe along.

The gourmet soup, using real turtle, is still on menus in fine dining restaurants in the Big Easy.

The item was also popular in Victorian England (it is mentioned in "Alice in Wonderland") and also Germany, according to Mary Gehring of Phi Beta Psi sorority. The time-consuming process involved in making the thick "spicy vegetable soup," as Schrank calls it, takes place annually at Catholic church festivals in Sunman (St. Nicholas, June); Morris (St. Anthony, early September); Batesville, (St. Louis, mid-September); and Oldenburg, (Holy Family, early October); as well as at the century-old Napoleon Firemen's Festival in late July.

Other churches and groups get in on the act as well. Phi Beta Psi and Holy Family make it in January for fund-raisers. The big cooking pots will be heating up next week (see Activities on pages 6-7 for details).

Gehring says the sorority has been making the popular fare since perhaps before the early 1970s. From her research, she found that farm families in the area would typically make the soup around butchering time. Many old recipes called for cooking a cow's head and tail for the meat. Some families would use beef brains and the heart or other meat and grind it up. "It was a cleanup soup," according to Gehring. (See a typical area recipe in the box.)

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