The Pierogi-making morning started with a fight. Not so much fight as an agitation. It was like I woke up in a military barracks with the General– Mom’s voice, a trumpet on the other end of the phone. After the pleasantries of my arrival (my flight was delayed until 2am and I stayed at my brother’s house) mom got right to the point.
“We wait for you. You wanted to make Pierogi.”
“Yeah, Mom I do. FRIDAY! I told Ciocia FRIDAY. Today is THURSDAY.”
“Well, Ciocia ready NOW.”
Call of duty.
That’s how it is around the house. I should have known my Friday appointment wouldn’t hold. In the past, my mother and aunt have laughed themselves into fits when I’ve mentioned the word, ‘appointment.’ “Felicia” my mother gasped for air, mid-belly laugh, “She wanna make an appointment.” Mom bobbled her head back and forth and pursed her lips. Her hand flopped like a Hollywood starlet.
It was the same thing this time around. I’ve learned that appointments feel contrived to Mom and Ciocia. I think they appreciate organic evolvements to the day. Unexpected events have room to play out. Appointments are road blocks to their flow. A down-right pain in the butt, like the Doctor appointments they hate going to.
I grumbled, but headed over to my parents’ house immediately.
I walked through the door and Ciocia was pounding the marble rolling pin against the dough.
We bickered over Thursday vs. Friday. My sleeping in.
“My flight got in at 2 am.”
“So what.” Ciocia offered, not looking up. The rolling pin slimmed out the thick circle of dough.
This was my welcome home moment: Scrub up. Get to work.
So much for setting up a video camera, getting out my notebook and writing out the recipe in careful script. I grabbed a thin notepad from the dry sink and a crappy pencil that looked sharpened by a handsaw. I put on the kettle. Breakfast had to wait. We got into the flow. I fussed with sealing the Pierogis. Ciocia and Mom made three to my one. The table filled up.
The dough, cheese and potato and sauerkraut fillings were made before I got there.
“Ciocia, how many cups of flour and water for the dough?”
In Polish she answered, I don’t measure for cups. I pour.
I wrote down her words in badly mangled Polish, as if I were jotting down a measurement. I phonetically spelled some words, and easily wrote others. I have to work at spelling in Polish despite understanding her perfectly. It’s strange to know different aspects of a language but not have absolute mastery. The non-measurements tripped me up. Mom suggested I use a Pierogi recipe from a cookbook.
“I don’t want the book recipe. I want your recipe. Big difference.”
“First use recipe from book. You get used to it. Then you can make you own recipe.”
Hm. That didn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Mom, how much water in the pot when you drop the Pierogi in?
“Tyle żeby tanczyli.” Enough so they dance.
That was the stuff I waited for, the most important secrets to a recipe. Like knowing the Campbell’s Soup can makes for a better dough cutter then the $3 jaggedy teeth pastry cutter or that you have to keep flour on your fingers at all times or else the dough seams won’t seal up or that it’s good to let the Farmer’s cheese dry out a bit on the counter so it makes for a stickier filling. Despite things not quite happening like I imagined- orderly, on my time schedule, with things layed out in a chronological sequence, so that I could record everything, it happened just as it should. What would family memories be without a little chaos and bickering? Especially when it ends with some good laughs.
We were just about finished when Ciocia said “Ciekawa jestem co na General Hospital.” I wonder what’s on General Hospital.
Hell or high water, they watch their General Hospital.
She went on to tell me that the character Robin has been locked up and wondered if someone would find her. Mom shuffled into the living room and went back to the stove. “Tylko Sonny i Karli.” It’s only Sonny and Karli, she reported.
Ciocia was unmoved. “Maybe Friday, they show.” She’s on to the daytime drama cliffhangers. Nothing juicy, until the end of the week. We scrapped the last of the filling out of the bowl. A near perfect ratio of dough to filling.
I felt accomplished.
I lay down near the Christmas tree, and draped my arm over my eyes, a hardwood floor never felt so good.
“My back’s killin’ me.” I moaned.
I partially lifted my arm off my eyes and felt the laughter seize my ribs. I waited for someone to throw a pillow at me or swat me with a broom.