Perogies have always been a part of my life. Every meal that includes
homemade perogies is a special occasion. Learning the best way to make them has been a lifelong process.
I am the child of first generation Canadians. My mother’s family emigrated from Finland; my father’s from the Ukraine and Poland.
My father, who had never made perogies, gave my mother some verbal instructions on how to make these tender morsels when they first married. She had no idea what a perogy was.
Once I moved to the Yukon and started my own family I started searching for ways to keep my children connected to their extended family and culture. I asked my mother to teach me how to make perogies: the ultimate comfort food.
We started inviting our friends over to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas with us. Our family would make all the perogies while others were asked to bring one traditional Ukrainian dish to the 12 course meal.
The numbers of guests grew as the families grew; it was time to teach my friends the art of perogy making.
I started hosting a pre-Ukrainian Christmas perogy making party. The dough recipe was doubled and then made again and again. With up to eight males and females mixing, rolling, cutting and pinching we finally had enough for the big day.
There was a lot of joy the year leftover perogies were raffled off to the lucky winners.
We discovered that Yukon wild cranberry sauce goes really well with sour cream and potato cheese perogies. We experimented with other fillings such as sauerkraut, bacon potato or blueberry, but the potato cheese version remained our favourite.
I know I have succeeded in my original goal in passing on a family tradition. My son made perogies with his future wife on their first date. Twelve of us later gathered in Kitsilano to make enough for 100 guests for their vegetarian wedding dinner. My daughter decided making perogies would help cure a bout of homesickness while on an extended South American trip. Many of my children’s friends have learned how to make perogies.
I consider making and sharing perogies a community building and family affair. This fall I made perogies with my four siblings and mother in Southern Ontario. My nephew was getting married and we were making dinner together at my sister’s home. It was the first time we had all been together in almost 10 years.
Last month we made a pot full for a neighbourhood meet and greet; a first for our subdivision. They even made a temporary appearance at the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival.
For me the humble perogy has become an ambassador and holder of tradition, friendship, learning, sharing, laughter and love. I might not be able to remember all the stories that have been told over the years, but I remember my ancestors, I remember my family and I remember my friends. I have been blessed.
Remember my Baba’s tip: Never count how many perogies you make because then they’ll fall apart when boiled.