When and how did the tradition of your two-day pierogi making festival start?
It started when I was very young. My mother would make them. Pierogi is such a time-consuming recipe. Everything is hand-made. I remember as a young girl coming home from school, my mother would be rolling out dough and making the pierogis. At that time it would be just for the family. So maybe she would make a hundred of these pasta pockets. That’s how it started. I also remember helping her with a little rolling pin and a little oven that had a light bulb for heat (laughter). Then when we all got older, and we maybe did it once a year, making the pierogis. Because it’s very time consuming and very rich, and it’s not exactly healthy for you. It’s pasta and ground pork and the topping is also ground pork and onions. It’s an acquired taste and very polish. We used to make them with potatoes and mushrooms, but that was years ago. It got to be too much for the family to make all that. Everybody liked the ones with the ground pork, so they’re the ones we make. Not too many people know about the pork filled ones. I don’t know anyone else who makes them like that. I’m polish, both of parents immigrated from Poland. My mother came over when she was 2 years old. My father came over when he was around 11. They met later in life. So I’m first generation. Don’t ask me anything in Polish though. The only time they spoke Polish in the house was when they didn’t want the children to know what they were saying. When we got older, I teased my mother about not teaching us Polish. My grandparents all spoke Polish, they never spoke English. My mother spoke both languages. When I was just married I’d go over and she’d say she was making them and we’d all go over, my husband, sister and brothers with our families and eat these pierogis. As my mother got older, in her 90’s, she’d come to my house with my sister and daughter-in-law, to make pierogis. This was about 12 years ago. As she got older, it was easier if I did it because I was a stay at home mom. When my daughter got married and my sons got out on their own, they’d ask “when are you making those pierogis?” We’d just get together. My daughter would call me up after work or something and tell me she had a day off. Then her daughter would come as a teenager after school and we’d all pitch in and do it. My grandson, who is married, his wife would come over. In fact, last year she came over with an electric pasta machine. That made it a lot easier.
I had graduated from rolling out the dough with a rolling pin, which is murder on your back, to a pasta machine that was a hand crank. It also increased it size, the amount of pierogis that we made. At first it would be maybe 150-200 and we’d eat it and that would be the end of it. Then somebody said, “let’s freeze them, so we’ll make more”. Last year we made over 800 because people took them home in freezer bags and froze them and a month or two later they’d be like “let’s have pierogis” and they’d pull them out of the freezer. Last year I was here, my daughter, my grandsons wife, her little kids, my other granddaughter came over and she helped. Then the whole family comes over and we eat. And because we do it only once a year, we have to start the day before. Somebody will make the little, tiny meat balls and somebody else will cut up the onions and even start making mounds of dough and keeping it in the refrigerator and then bring it to my house and then we’ll roll it out and make it.