Monday, January 3, 2011

Family Traditions




I was perusing NPR today and stumbled upon a story that brought me whooshing back to my grandma's living room, sitting on the floor legs crossed, with my face stuffed full of perogies.  The memory was that of a warm spring/summer weekend afternoon where we had just come back to her place from the neighborhood Ukrainian Church with our booty-several large zip-lock baggies filled with homemade perogies, a few packages of butter, some onions, two tubs of Breakstone's sour cream, and the possibility of filling up on the ultimate comfort food.  This memory is cemented in my mind-the smells of the butter and onions, the taste of the pasta with its potato & cheese fillings, the feel of the warm breeze wafting in from her front screen door off the street.  We had to have made the drive to the church at least once a month, for probably the first 10-12 years of my life (before the church stopped selling the perogies)...but when I think back to eating them with her, it is that specific moment, at about the age of 6, that I remember the most clearly. 

It is that same memory that propelled me to learn how to make those very same perogies after she died eight years ago.  As we cleaned out her house, I found several cookbooks that she rarely used (her idea of cooking consisted of buying a pie at the local grocery store and warming it up).  One was a treasury of Ukrainian recipes from women at that very church we used to go to for perogies.  When Thanksgiving drew near, I set out to make my very first batch of perogies.  Let's just say that it took me forever.  As I was hand rolling out the dough, mashing the potatoes, cursing my aching feet, worrying over them staying together as they boiled I remembered her tales of making them as a young woman in her mother's kitchen.  I felt connected to my family's past in a way I never did before.  With each passing holiday, I have perfected the art of assembly-line perogi production, and I believe have gotten better at the art of making them in general.  The pasta dough has gotten softer and more supple.  The fillings are tastier.  Now whenever I bite into my own homemade perogies I can close my eyes and feel that warm breeze from grandma's front door.  I can her the click of her high heels, her singing as she hand-washes dishes in her sink.  Yes, I make them because we all love perogies so much, but I also make them because they take me back to a moment frozen in time when I felt completely and utterly stuffed full of food, love, and happiness.

Pierogies are dumplings filled with meet, cheese or vegetables.
Image courtesy NPR

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