As a native Pittsburgher, no matter what your ethnic background, you are familiar with pierogies (or pyrohi, pirogy, etc. it all depends on who you ask.) These Eastern European pockets of carb-happy goodness are one of the major facets of Pittsburgh cuisine. A pasta shell, wrapped around a mashed potato filling, then boiled, then topped with melted butter and caramelized onions, there is no way that they are healthy. But, that is neither here nor there, it's all about flavor and tradition.
Here's the first part of the admission: Background wise, I'm mostly English, Scottish and Irish. Most people would say that then gives me no right to discuss ethnic food of another culture That is why I went to the source, first generation Ukrainians who know their food the best.
And once again, I was surprised to find that the food takes a backseat to the company. I met some amazing people today, such as Katherine, a grandmother, who constantly referred to me as "Strong Young Man" Other notables there were Andrew, who left his family behind in the Ukraine, and Gene, a former member of the Secret Service, who protected President Nixon.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mary, a brassy grandmother who, when I was warned to stay away from her, responded with "Don't worry, he's a man, he likes the abuse"
Another thing I learned, is that I have nothing on a grandmother when it comes to cooking. I can try, with elaborate measurements and difficult techniques, but nothing is quite as surprising as after having cut out 120 or so pierogi shells, to turn around and have them ask where the next batch is. I was run ragged in a really good way by a bunch of sprightly grandmothers.
Of course, pierogies were not the only ethnic food I was exposed to today. I had my first experience with braunschwieger when it was offered to me. It is a very interestingly textured sausage, comprised of mostly pork liver and jowl meat. I appreciated the offer, but the texture and liver flavor together were just a little too much together.
The most surprising thing for me though, is what happened after the cooking. My friends know that I'm not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination. And if you read this, you know that I've been having some rough going. I stopped by the sanctuary today, because I've been feeling so lost, sat down, and started weeping, for a solid 20 minutes. I realized that I've been holding on to a lot of pain for a long while, and I was able to let it go. This is the best I've felt in a long time.
So, in the words of the philosopher Jagger: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try some times, you might find, you get what you need." Sometimes, the universe does take care of it's own.
By the way, for some amazing pierogies, visit http://www.stjohnspittsburgh.com/pirohi.htm and follow the directions to order. I guarantee they are some of the best pierogies in Pittsburgh.