Despite the fact that my maternal grandmother and her ancestors lived in Lithuania, my ancestry is 100% Polish. Even so, my family celebrated very few Polish traditions at Christmas.
Nonetheless, during the Christmas holidays we visited traditionally visited several relatives and shared holiday meals with them, the most memorable of which were the meals at my Grandmother Danko’s home.
Grandmother Danko did very little cooking herself, but my Aunt Helen would prepare the holiday meal at Grandmother’s house. Aunt Helen spent days cooking, preparing pierogi (dumplings) and gołąbki (stuffed cabbage, literally “little pigeons”) from scratch, and making sure there was enough szynka (ham), kiełbasa (sausage), kapusta (cabbage), ziemniaki (potatoes), buraki (beets) bułki (rolls), chłeb (bread), and masło (butter) to go around.
For my sisters and me, the best part of the holiday meal were the pierogi. Oh, how we loved pierogi! We could have eaten pierogi with every meal. We still could.
Aunt Helen made three kinds of pierogi: potato and cheese, sauerkraut, and cheese, but I only remember her making the cheese pierogi once. A few years ago, I asked her for the recipe. Like my mother’s recipes, Aunt Helen’s recipes resided only in her head. Nothing was written down. In fact, nothing really had precisely measured ingredients. Aunt Helen’s recipe for pierogi dough was something like, “add water to the dough until the consistency is right”.
Even then, I’m not sure Aunt Helen gave me all her secrets for making pierogi. I’ve made pierogi several times, but they don’t taste quite the same. I don’t make pierogi very often because their preparation is very time and labor intensive. But, maybe this Christmas…
Written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Day 3.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko