On one side of the marble table, Bronia Brooks crimped pierogi with her usual artistic perfection. Next to her, Janek Lis proved he is indeed a master of the pierogi production line.
On the other side of the table, our two pasta rollers, Anna Swain and our kitchen leader, Anna Biegańska, prepared the first batches of pasta rounds, ready for the filling, the recipe of which had been given much thought and preparation, and portioned by Zusia Bieniowska. Nina Tomaszyk, who thought she could not crimp pierogi, stood between Bronia and Janek, absorbed their guidance, and did well.
It was a bubbly, busy Dom Polski kitchen. As I looked over at the production group, chatting away as they solved the world’s problems while they prepared pierogi for my husband, Steven, to boil, I was reminded of the rite of passage that pierogi-making used to be in Polish households.
Children grew up knowing that a kitchen filled with people rolling pasta dough, cutting out rounds and filling them meant an occasion was near. Any child watching was soon roped in and taught the basics, and later, the secrets of much-loved fillings and perfect crimping.
As traditional family structures changed, home-made pierogi—which take time and a certain amount of skill—made way for take-away varieties. The swift turnover of customers in pierogi restaurants in Polish cities shows that time-impoverished Poles still enjoy the food synonymous with their culture.
We could not have a market at the APA without pierogi. For our Spring Market on 10 September, like our compatriots in Christchurch and Wellington, we are again making them in-house. It does mean that we will have to put some time into the process, and follow strict health and safety guidelines, but we know that the increase in profit will be worth it—we still have improvements to make on our building.
Last Saturday’s first foray into pierogi-making gave us an indication of weights, measures, and results. Now that we have a better idea of what to expect, we will be having more sessions. If there is one truism in life, it is that more hands make light work, so we welcome anyone who is interested in joining the APA Artisan Brigade for a few hours, please contact us through email@example.com and put “pierogi” in the subject line.
You don’t have to be up to Bronia’s or Janek’s ability. If you weren’t lucky enough to be taught by your babcia, mother, ciocia, or friend, we are prepared to train you.
Better still, if you are a “pro” and can give us a couple of hours, we welcome you!
Photograph: Nina Tomaszyk