Wednesday, April 04, 2018

What's In An Object?

It's funny how a simple inanimate object can have such an effect at bringing back a flood of memories.

This past weekend, my son and I spent the long Easter weekend with my Mom back in Levack.

Because my Mom had given Liz and I Baba's long-standing recipe for pierogi last December, and we had gone through at least a couple rounds of making them on our own with Liz's girls and Alexander, I told my Mom that Zander and I would make some pierogi for her.

My Mom hadn't made pierogi since her mother, my Baba, died in February seven years ago. She keeps buying them from Costco. So I thought it might be fun for her to have some home-made pierogi. No, not as good as Baba's (nothing could ever replace those) - but home-made and, like Baba's, made with love and just a touch of calamity in the kitchen.

When, back in December, Liz and the girls and I had been making pierogi, I remember being quite particular about the vessel we used to cut the dough into the round shapes for crafting the little Eastern European dumplings. I likely went overboard in my desire to find just the perfect glass or cup to use, and was never quite satisfied with what we ended up using.

It was because Baba had always used a particular little tea cup for cutting her pierogi dough with. A small white cup with red roses and green-silver stems and leaves; complete with a couple of chips in it that suggested it had been long and well used.

Baba's Teacup
Baba's pierogi tea cup

Looking at that teacup brought back a huge flood of incredibly powerful memories.

Growing up, the day that Baba made pierogi, wasn't just an afternoon activity. It was, like the Olympic event. The entire house was taken over with the festivities. Baba didn't do anything in a small or half-assed way. Everything she did was a major event. In particular making pierogi or cabbage rolls. Because it wasn't just about making a couple of dozen pierogi. It was making upwards of 200 or more.

My father and I had to make sure to clear out of the kitchen from earlier than 8 AM in the morning while the potatoes were peeled and boiled, while the dough was made (it needed to sit for several hours before it could be used) and while the sharp strong old cheddar was grated or put through a food processor.

The smells, the sounds, the hustle and bustle of the event in the kitchen, which usually involved Baba turning into a bit of a drill sergeant in the process, orchestrating all activities as if she had an army working under her rather than just the sole soldier of my Mom.

One had to be careful not to walk through the kitchen during this process. My role was mostly to just stay out of the way.

But one of the rewards would come just a few hours into the event when either my Baba or my Mom would come into the living room and offer me a small bowl filled with the warm potato and cheddar mixture. I would gobble it down and then wonder if I should dare stick my head into the kitchen to ask for more.

It is still one of my absolute favorite tastes in the world. One of those warm and all-compassing comforts.

As Alexander and my Mom and I worked together in the kitchen, my Mom regaled us with stories of the various different times her and her mother had gone through this process. While I had witnessed many such occasions, I never got to actually participate. And that's why I'm so pleased that Alexander was able to be part of the entire procedure, to actually participate in pretty much every single step of the process with his Baba Jean.

Alexander making pierogi with his Baba Jean

I can't think about the making of pierogi without thinking about my Baba and her special little tea cup. But now, I have a new memory. Proudly watching my son and his own Baba sits beside him and walks him through the creation of pierogi. No, not just piergoi. But Baba's Pierogi.

Some memories can be almost as delicious as even Baba's Pierogi.

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