Dec 21, 2010


Who makes the pierogi? I make the pierogi!

My mother is not fond of cooking. Which is not to say that she isn't good at it, just that she'd rather not. So it might seem odd then that she's the one who always hosts Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, your birthday, his birthday, etc... It's not because no one else will, in fact you pretty much have to fight her to host it yourself.

In any case, now that we live in the same state, I try to take some of the pressure off her, and while I have yet to have any success at wrestling a holiday out of her hands, I do make about 30% of any given feast and truck it over to her house. Which leads me to the pierogi...

See, mom's mom, well, I don't know if she loved to cook, but she was certainly awesome at it. Not awesome like gourmet chef awesome, awesome like Polish Grandma awesome. So every holiday, mom's kitchen split personality emerges, in that on one hand she complains about cooking, while on the other she laments that she never learned how to make any of the dishes that her mom made.

Now one would think that growing up with Grandma she would have just absorbed some of this knowledge, but it apparently it didn't work that way. Also, there's no, like, Long Lost Grandma Cookbook because she didn't have one. She never wrote a recipe down, never read one, never ripped one out of a magazine. I don't think she even owned a cookbook. She never measured anything, she just tossed stuff in a bowl, mixed it up with her trusty wooden spoon, and viola! feast. So there is no recipe for grandma's pierogi or sauerkraut, or kolachky, or nalesniki, or that plum cake thing she made, or whatever the hell that stuffed cabbage thing was called.

There are many differences between me and mom, but with respect to this post the main one is this: I LOVE TO COOK. And as I mentioned, I try to make things a little easier on her by at least taking care of veggie main dishes (I'm the only vegetarian in the gene pool), and various side dishes, and bread, as I like to bake too. I mean, seriously, why eat those crack-the-can crescent rolls when you can make your own?

No really, I'm getting to the pierogi. Here we go.

It's a couple days before Christmas and we're going over who is making what. Oh, I just want it to be easy, she says. Don't worry mom, I'll make those garlic rosemary dinner rolls you like, and sure, no problem, I can make a couple sides, so on and so forth. And then it hits me: when grandma was alive, and she was the host, there was no such thing as dinner without pierogi. So I think to myself: I'll surprise mom!

Off to The Goole I go. And what I discovered in dough recipe after dough recipe was sour cream. Please. I may not have grandma's kitchen IQ, but I know she never used sour cream. This is a woman who started life in the Ukraine, got shushed around Europe during WWII, eventually landed in Germany, and then left for the US after the war. I don't think she had electricity or running water most of the time, much less sour cream. But she always had pierogi.

So, trying to be as Authentically Grandma as possible, I turn to my Treasured Polish Recipes For Americans cookbook, which I picked up in Chicago in a previous life, and have giggled at often, but never used. The dough recipe in that book is much more grandma-like: flour, eggs, water, salt. PERFECT. Grandma's fillings were: potato, sauerkraut, cheese and plum, so I chose the first two and sort of made it up from there, trying to keep everything as simple as possible, because that's how grandma would have done it.

SUCCESS. I nailed that pierogi on the first try. I knew it before I even plopped it into boiling water just by the smell of the dough. And suddenly I remembered being a little-elle in her kitchen, I remembered the juice glass she used to make the dough circles, her giant mixing bowl, her wooden spoon, her rolling pin.

So now I have a freezer full of pierogi which I will take to mom on Christmas day. I guess I will truly be able to say I nailed it (or not) when I see the look on her face, but I have a feeling all will end well...
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