Friday, 17 May 2013

Why do Western Canadians make such Tiny Pyrohy(varenyky)?

Calgary Ukrainian Festival 2012
Pyrohy are a phenomenon - and may be the essential National food of Canadians, and not only Ukrainian Canadians!  You can walk into any grocer these days and select from a growing variety of pyrogies, but as every Ukrainian cook knows, imitation is the highest form of compliment.  There is nothing like home cooked food! And anything that resembles it capitalizes on the powerful memory trigger of taste!  Nobody forgets the smells, and tastes of home.  And pyrogy - varenyky are passionately intertwined between food, culture, and memory! 

Cultural maven that I am, did you know that the term pyr- actually means baked?  And varennyk actually means boiled?  Nonetheless, pyrogies-varenyky are slow food.  It can be a process, unless you are efficient with your time, like the baba's of my youth who could process 12 dozen or more in one short afternoon by themselves!  Freshly made, soft, not frozen, pyrogies-varenyky are simple, comfort food designed to erase all memory of painful times, relationships or worries.  They are homely, honest and absolutely essential!  They are the reason family comes home for Ukrainian Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and every other weekend! 

Pyrogies, varenyky or however they are labeled can trace their presence in Canada to the arrival of people from Eastern Europe - those who came to settle the prairies with Vasyl Eleniak and others from Western Ukraine in 1891 and onward. A culinary classic largely representative of Ukrainian culture, varenyky or pyrogies are favorites at family gatherings, potlucks and family restaurants across the Canadian prairies.  But do not be fooled into believing it is peasant food!  Handmade, and filled with a variety of traditional or non traditional delicious tastes, everyone has their own preference - sauerkraut, saskatoons, prunes, sour cherries, wild mushrooms, potato, with cheese, sour cream or fresh dill, with sauteed onions - they are the best! They are simply the best evidence of the tenacious hold of culture on the palate - and the extensive and rich diversity of Ukrainian heritage across Canada's Ukrainian historical sites, architecture, landmarks, cultural events and festivals. 

But why the tiny morsels?  Experts say the smallest ones are the most work, and of course they come from experienced hands, not a machine!  Although pyrogy eating championships may appeal to some, they have an esteemed culinary history.  The soft pliable dough depends upon the gluten properties in the wheat which gained Ukraine the reputation for being the breadbasket of Europe. Whether thrifty, or simply elegant, the varennyk-pyrogy is always most appreciated when made with nimble, tidy fingers - and how best to demonstrate potential and talent to a potential partner, nurturer, mate/lover than to serve up a plate of deliciously tiny home-made varenyky? 

So from tiny pyrohy to the giant pyrohy, or pierogy, or varenyk, it is time to think about how this delicious morsel of food is being celebrated in Alberta!  Did you know that Glendon, Alberta has a Pyrogy Festival showcasing Ukrainian culture and cuisine every September long weekend?  Come to see the giant pyrogy that stands 27 feet tall, deliciously waiting for  hungry passer-by, tantelizing the senses, on a fork. Built in 1991 of fiberglass with a metal frame, it is a two hour drive north east of Edmonton into Alberta's Lakeland Kalyna Country, well worth the trip! Looking at it on the fork, it doesn't seem too big!  A fun weekend of great music, beautiful Ukrainian dancing, and a Pyrogy eating contest!  If you are intrigued by this amazing village, make time to visit - remember to make reservations to stay at the Glendon Pyrogy Motel on Railway Avenue, and then head to the Pyrogy Restaurant too.  Call  Mayor Johnnie Doonanco at 780-635-3807 for more information!

Personally, I think their monument looks much like the Varenyk monument in Synky village, Ukraine. Пам'ятник варенику при в'їзді в Кіровоградську область (біля села Синьки) з боку Черкаської області.  What do you think? 

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