Goulash lovers unite!
That’s what’s going to happen at the Hungarian Gulyas Festival, the 10th annual celebration of Hungarian traditions, July 8 and 9, at Norridge United Church of Christ.
The highlight of the festival is the annual Gulyas (Hungarian spelling) Cook-off on Saturday. Judges select a winner and visitors to the event also vote for their favorite version of the Hungarian take on chili.
Pam Csekme, a member of the church’s board of directors who assists English-speaking people at the event, noted that the gulyas is cooked in “the authentic Hungarian way. It’s all made from scratch. You can’t do anything ahead of time except slice the vegetables.” The gulyas is cooked in a cauldron hanging on a tripod over an open fire.
“They have to make a minimum of five gallons so that the public and the judges can taste it,” Csekme said. The entire process takes three-to-four hours.
Visitors won’t go hungry while the cooks are at work, though. There’s a “bottomless” gulyas cauldron both days. “It’s about four feet across and two feet deep,” Csekme said. “It holds possibly about 75 or more gallons.”
Kate Smith, another church board member, reported that the contestants work in teams. “There are usually 10-15 teams competing,” she said. The teams are generally composed of two to three people. One person couldn’t possibly handle the entire process because they are cooking over an open fire.
People must complete an application form in order to participate in the contest. Most of them come back year after year. “We never have a problem finding people,” Smith said.
Surprisingly, none of the church members compete in the cook-off. Smith said that’s because they are too busy running the event.
Once the contestant teams finish cooking, visitors can sample a 2-to-3-ounce tasting portion of each gulyas before they vote.
Other traditional Hungarian foods will be available, including crepes, Kürtőskalács (rolled sweet dough) and lángos (elephant ears). Csekme noted that while Americans tend to put powdered sugar on their elephant ears, the Hungarian way of eating them is with sour cream, cheese and garlic. “Since I’m American,” Csekme said, “I convinced them to also put out powdered sugar.”
Entertainment will be provided by Hungarian bands and authentic Hungarian folk dancers. “This year we have a group of ten dancers that will dance along with the band throughout the day,” Smith said.
There will be face painters, games and activities for children.
Csekme and her husband will sell T-shirts to raise additional funds for the church. There will also be vendors selling Hungarian items and the folk dancers will sell handmade jewelry and purses.
“We try to keep everybody busy and happy,” Csekme said.
Hungarian Gulyas Festival
When: noon-9 p.m. July 8 and 9
Where: Norridge United Church of Christ, 8260 W. Foster Ave., Norridge
Tickets: $20; $30 for both days; $5 for ages 6-12
Information: 708-456-3398; www.gulyasfestival.com