Pauline Ores - Blueberry Pirogies
Being someone who's focused on process rather than just product, my "most memorable" meal has more to do with how it was made, rather than how it was eaten.
Ingredients: Flour, Eggs, Blueberries
Utensils: Rolling Pin or Wine bottle, Dish towel,
a Drinking glass
My grandmother would make these in the summer, usually just once a year.
To start she would create a mound of flour on the counter, create a well, add the eggs and make dough. No measurements of course, and the entire process would take a few hours—so there would be lots of time to stay in the kitchen, observe, help out, and talk.
Grandma knew, and insisted on teaching me, how to shop for great produce. Great ingredients are really the crux for everything.
She would often remark that cultivated berries weren't half as good as wild berries. That would get her to talking about food in Europe.
She'd tell me about picking berries, long ago, even in Siberia, during the war. Where the forest is so thick, that if you were to take four steps into the forest and spin around you'd never find your way out again. I never could imagine this, but it was true.
My mother later told me that in order to pick berries, they'd tie one end of a rope to their waist and then tie the other end to a tree by the path—making Grandma's rope one of the most cherished possessions for the entire group they "lived" with, if you could call that living, during the war.
And of course they didn't make Pirogies during the war—where people hardly saw flour, butter, or even more precious, salt. Grandma made these "before."
In my family, the past comes presorted. It's either "before, during, and after" and many stories, no matter how innocuously they started, often ended with sighs. This would signal that it was time to bring up another subject.
Or move on to the next step in making the Pirogies—preparing to roll out the dough.
After the dough was kneaded she would cut off a small amount and place the rest under a clean, damp dishtowel to wait it's turn, without drying out.
She would roll out the small piece and use a drinking glass to cut circles. She'd quickly fill the circles with a spoon or two of blueberries, seal up the edge and set it aside. Once she had a batch ready she would boil them. You eat them right out of the pot with sour cream, and maybe a little sugar sprinkled on top.
Now, if the rolled out dough gets dry, you can't make a good seal, so when you boil the Pirogies, the blueberries get out and stain all the Pirogies a shocking shade of purple.
If you could make blueberry Pirogies, without staining any purple, everyone knew you'd make a good wife—so this dish is something young girls would make to impress future in-laws in Eastern Europe. Of course this was "before."
I've digressed—but then again, listening to stories on a summer afternoon was really the best part of making Pirogies. It was really an opportunity to work on my incomplete patchwork of what I knew about my parents and grandparents' past.
Due to her diabetes, my grandmother ultimately became infirm and then died from complications years ago. So it's been at least a dozen, if not fifteen, years since I've had this dish.
But now that I think of it, it makes realize I should to try my hand at it this summer with my two girls—who I know will get a kick out of helping me make what I'm sure will turn out to be a very purple dish.
Pauline Ores. Pauline Ores email@example.com