I loved this essay by Elizabeth McNamara in the Washington Post food section today, in which the author lovingly remembers her Polish great-grandfather making pierogis. My grandmother made the best pierogi in the family—as she and others told me, once I was old enough to be interested in such things—and she, too, usually worked alone, just as this great-grandfather did. Once she found out I liked pierogi, she never failed to serve them for dinner when I visited her in my adult years. Prune was her favorite flavor, and cheese is my favorite, or maybe sauerkraut is my favorite. I would love a plate right now to see, because you know, prune are pretty good, too.
From the Washington Post essay:
“I think of my great-grandfather most at Christmas. He was born to Polish immigrants on the Feast of the Epiphany. He was named Caspar after one of the three Magi, though he went by his middle name, Anthony (and I knew him simply as Pappy). Many of his flannel shirts were a Christmasy red plaid. But more than that, more than the accordion on his knee and the polka in his whistle, I remember him for pierogi.
“Pierogi are really potato ravioli. They were designed not to delight the sophisticated senses but to ensure survival in the very poor, overpopulated areas of Eastern Europe. If Pappy was not leaning over the crest of the living room chair watching the Yankees, it seemed, he was in the kitchen stuffing pockets of unleavened dough, pinching their edges before gently placing them in a large pot of rolling salted water.” (Read on.)
Recipe from The Washington Post (my grandmother admitted to adding sour cream to her dough)
I’ll assume you’ve read my novel Pears on a Willow Tree (!!), but if not, here’s the first chapter, which is about four generations of women making pierogi together. (Scroll down, to the headline “Shortcuts.”)
Finally, here are some places I know in the Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore where you can get good pierogi:
Ze Mean Bean Cafe—restaurant
Broadway Market—frozen handmade pierogi to take home (the beautiful picture of borscht on this site may distract you….)