Manson, Ia. — If RAGBRAI readers didn’t see the signs for hamballs at the Our Savior Methodist United Church here, they couldn’t have missed Brayden Pritchard urging people to turn toward the church as soon as they hit town. With a dyed-red mohawk like a rooster’s comb and a rubber beak with a wattle, he shouted the church’s simple ad campaign: “Eat more ham.”
And when they said “more,” they meant it. The church’s motorcycle-riding pastor Deb Parkison hit the kitchen by 4 a.m. to help thaw and cook the 400 pounds of hamballs the congregation had started making and freezing two months ago. The secret’s in the sauce: tomato soup, mustard, a little vinegar and a lot of brown sugar.
“They’re pretty tasty little morsels,” said rider Jerry Sterkel of Waterloo, Neb.
It was a new specialty for both him and two other Nebraska friends, Dave Duscher and Loren Wahl, who joked that they thought the locals said “handballs,” which would have been a little more chewy.
Nancy Gordon of Dubuque was more skeptical, but even she liked them.
“I’ve always passed on them,” she said. “The words (‘ham’ and ‘balls’) just don’t sound right together.”
Gordon rides with Middle-Eastern Muslim women of Team Shirzanan, whose members also lined up for the meal. They had heard there would be pizza but struck out.
“I’ll have to eat dessert first” and then grab lunch elsewhere, said Kulsoom Abdullah. She grabbed a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie (one of 120 the church had prepared) and headed outside.
“I want to try the sweet corn and the pickles,” said Abdullah, who grew up in Pakistan and lives in Atlanta. “I had a smoked turkey leg yesterday.”
Adullah wore a tight black hood, long sleeves and rainbow-striped socks. She said she wasn’t much of an endurance athlete and had started training for the ride only since mid-June, just a few weeks before the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan.
But she seemed to be in good spirits, thanks in part to that pie.
“We’re realizing how much we have in common,” Gordon said.
Proceeds from the meal will help pay for the church youth group’s service trip to eastern Kentucky.
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