A Family Tradition
Last Friday my mother Susan and I spent a good part of the day making pierogies for the Easter Sunday holiday. I wanted a great way to talk about how pierogies came to be a tradition in my family. The progress is truly a labor love. My oldest sister Maureen recently wrote a paper on the subject for a sociology class. It would be my honor to share that paper with my readers because she took the history, my family roots, my immediate family and the time and love needed to accomplish the finished product. This year I decided to attempt “the whole wheat pierogi.” We were all pleased with the results. We still kept with the real deal but it pleased me to know that my family was open to a little bit of a change. Pictured above is tradition old and new. Thanks mom for the passion and pride you passed on to me. I hope to make you proud and do the same to continue this practice for future generations.
Maureen Postolowski’s paper on the pierogi: Thanks Maureen! xo
Growing up in our household, there was only one food in particular that really made my taste buds burst with anticipation of what I was about to be treated to, what would occur in the way of preparation, and the sheer delight of eventually devouring a full plate of pierogies afterwards.
With its predominant Slavic roots, the pierogi originated in Eastern and Central European countries such as Poland, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Ukraine. My grandparents on my father’s side were from Poland and the Ukraine, and although I never had the pleasure of knowing either one of them, I was lucky enough to have four aunts who embraced their heritage, and loved cooking traditional ethnic foods taught to them by their Polish mother. It was these four dedicated aunts who eventually taught my very Irish, straight off the boat, and young dear mother the art of creating a dish that they wanted replicated and instilled upon the generations to follow. My mother came from Ireland in 1958 and married my father in 1960. Within five years, these four lovely aunts, who were much older than my twenty-five year old mother, had her disciplined in the traditions of everyday Polish cuisine. My mother, Susan, an excellent cook by nature adapted easily to being taught the complex and time consuming process of making pierogies from scratch.
Perhaps once or twice a year, my mother would tell us ahead of time that the following weekend she was going to make pierogies, and that she needed our help. I am the oldest of four daughters so I always felt second in command, and welcomed the responsibility and the honor that came with it. All of my sisters would sit around the table that was now covered in flour and follow my mother’s directions without waiver.
First the filling was prepared and included a combination of potatoes, a staple ingredient for all European ethnicities, onion, and farmer cheese. There was also sauerkraut filling, made from pickled cabbage and also considered to be another staple ingredient among Eastern European countries. Cabbage was inexpensive, abundant and typically used in soups and stews. My father often reminded us that cabbage soup was a customary dish given to him as a child because it was inexpensive and filling, especially when he was growing up in the 1930’s when food was scarce. Then the dough was prepared and rolled into small thin oblong shaped forms, and eventually encased with one of the fillings. The pierogies were then dropped delicately into a pot of boiling water and finally sautéed with caramelized onions and butter in a frying pan.
It was a tedious process, but enjoyed by all who participated. We knew this had become a family tradition, passed down by my father’s family but continued to this day by my mother, who cheerfully welcomed and embraced her new found and adopted heritage of typical Polish fare. My mother would eventually teach her family including cousins and nieces, as well as friends, the skill of learning to cook pierogies which she displayed with passion and pride. Each setting or class was not solely devoted to learning, but rather became a social encounter between generations of families and a shared mix of our different heritage brought together.
Although pierogies are typical of eastern European countries, they share a definite similarity in appearance to that of Italian ravioli, Japanese gyoza, Turkish manti, Chinese wonton and Cuban empanada to name a few; however, the fillings vary slightly as well as the manner in which they are cooked. Interestingly, when we examine the foods of different societies throughout the world, we find one in particular, like that of the pierogi, which undoubtedly could be considered a comfort food
…and there you have it. They were good!!
Have a wonderful weekend.
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