The Dumpling that Comforts Poland
Wonton, ravioli, gyoza, pielmeni, mandu, khinkali – with such an international spectrum of Maastricht Diplomat readers I am sure that the topic of the article is clear: dumplings. Not just any dumplings though, but about the best ones in the whole world. Call me biased but as a Polish girl (and my Malaysian-German boyfriend agrees, so I also have some international backup on that one), I can definitely say there is no better type of dumplings than pierogi, or to make it easier for you to order once visiting my beautiful country: PEE-eh-ROH-gee 😉
According to students’ favorite source, Wikipedia, pierogi are filled dumplings of Central and Eastern European origin, made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooking them in boiling water, or pan – frying. While this description is pretty accurate in terms of technicalities, it doesn’t do its justice with regard to experience.
The beauty of pierogi is that you can have it filled with whatever you want. There are traditional ones: with potato and cottage cheese (my personal favorite), minced meat or cabbage and mushrooms. Then we have sweet summer versions: with strawberries, blackberries or sweet cottage cheese. Apart from that, it’s possible to find ones with fish filling or buckwheat or spinach and feta cheese… Everyone can find something for themselves.
Nevertheless, it’s not just the taste that makes pierogi so popular and important in Polish culture. Ask any of your Polish friends about those dumplings and 95% of them will mention either their grandma or mum or both. Because making pierogi is quite a time-consuming job and requires some manual skills (let me tell you, this nice rim doesn’t appear just like that), it is not a daily treat and usually you need more than one person for that process. And so, for x number of generations, women of the family would gather together before festivities like Christmas or Easter and our elders would share their experience and knowledge with the younger generations. And although it may seem like an image taken from 19th century, with women chatting over house chores and men being absent from the scene, that is not the case nowadays.
In my family we usually get together with my grandma, mum, cousins and grandpa (the latter one peaking into the kitchen once every 10 minutes and getting slapped in the palms for trying to steal some filling). During the process of making pierogi there, of course, there are some classics present like ‘When I was your age…’ but then my younger cousin is blasting Nicki Minaj from her phone (I love her regardless), the older one complaining about legal situation in Poland and me sharing the ins and outs of Dutch life. Moreover, we manage to discuss all new celebrity drama and analyze that one reality show which supposedly no one is watching.
Even though there are so many different types of dumpling around the world and I am sure each of them has some kind of tradition tied to it, there is no one who does dumplings, or should I rather say pierogi, like we do in Poland. Therefore, find yourself a Polish friend and force them to organize a hangout focused on making and obviously later consuming pierogi. After all, nothing allows us to share our cultures and bring people from different backgrounds together better than good food 😉