It's Tuesday. Tuesday morning. Tuesday morning, 8 o'clock. I tie my damp hair back into a ponytail, pull out an apron, and run over next door to the church.
It's Perogy Bee, or Perogy Making, Day.
Already, my siblings are there, some delivering the platsky (dough circles), while others are busy pinching. Most of the parishioners are here, too, and my dad is up there rolling the dough. I quickly join the pinchers.
Most of you are probably familiar with perogies. Those dumplings with cheese and potato filling you can get in the frozen foods section of stores. (And which, by the way, are NOTHING like the real thing.)
Perogies are not solely a Ukrainian dish. The Polish, German, and Russian also have them. In fact, perogies can be found in many Eastern European countries. And each have their own way of doing things and their own names. The Ukrainians call their perogies varenyky (meaning boiling liquid, which is how you traditionally cook them) or pyrohy (buns or pies). Most Ukrainians eat their varenyky with sour cream and/or onions. They are especially good with sausage and can be made with buckwheat, sauerkraut, and fruit filling.
The word perogy most likely is an Anglicized version of the Polish word "pierogi." A staple of peasant diet, it reached such popularity that different kinds were made for Christmas, Easter, and weddings. Usually, the filling is fresh quark (cheese), potatoes, and fried onions. Other fillings are ground meat, mushroom, and cabbage and different kinds of fruit pierogies. When my great-aunt used to visit us, she'd make strawberry-filled pierogies which we ate with brown sugar, and which we still make if we have leftover dough.
German perogies (piroggen) are either boiled or baked. German-speaking countries have their own variations, like Schlutzkrapfen (with ricotta and spinach) in South Tyrol and Maultaschen (pasta noodles with fillings) in Swabia.
Russia has the Ukrainian varenyky. They also have a baked pastry, pirozhki, which is not to be confused with pyrohy. As you can see, the same food can have different names and variations (for our purposes, we'll stick to the term perogy). However, one thing they have in common is that they are part of the country's diet and, in many cases, culture. For example, perogies are eaten at the Svyat Vechir (Christmas Eve) dinners with a dairy-free filling. They are also eaten at Easter dinners. Actually, any Ukrainian banquet is bound to have perogies.
Making perogies is an involved process. There is the dough to make and leave to rise. Then there is the filling to make (which usually involves peeling, boiling, and mashing potatoes and/or mixing it with cheese). Finally, there is the pinching process and, if not immediately boiling them, freezing them. For many Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox churches, this is their many fundraiser, as people love eating perogies. And why is that? Because they are made with love. Perogy bees are not just a session where the church's fundraising products are made. It's also a time for people to connect, to exchange gossip and tell stories. It's a time and place for being together.
It's lunchtime now. As the last perogy bee of the church year, we are eating the "rejects" (those that opened during the freezing and were discovered when the packaging was done a few days later) that have accumulated. As I cut my perogies, with the delicious onions that I have poured over them, I smile at my sisters. Working together, no arguments, taking part in a Ukrainian tradition, and getting to eat it. Yep, that's the power of perogies.