Sunday, 23 December 2018

Trim the Hearth and Set the Table!

After Mass today a parishioner mentioned that I had written many articles for LSN this week, which surprised him. He thought that perhaps we would slow down towards Christmas. Ho, ho, ho, as Santa Claus would say.

I don't remember what I wrote earlier this week, but I turned in three stories on Thursday and two stories on Friday, and then I danced a little Friday-at-7:15-PM jig and rushed off to the kitchen to make 3 dozen pierogi.

It is the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and your humble correspondent has been preparing for Christmas as much as I can, given my full-time job. I turned to Facebook to ask job-working mothers how on earth they do it, and they said (in sum) that they do what they can when they can do it. One suggested prioritising, e.g. writing Christmas cards instead of vacuuming.

I didn't feel I could give up vacuuming, and I prioritised pierogi over getting to the post office, so the Christmas cards didn't go out until yesterday. However (and more importantly), the big parcel of presents for my family in Canada has arrived intact. That was at the very top of my To-Do list, once B.A. and I discovered we wouldn't be going to Canada for Christmas ourselves.

We are going to our friends' place in the countryside of Fife for Christmas Lunch. But tomorrow we are having a Polish Wigilia (Christmas Vigil) supper, and I have enjoyed myself immensely making as many Wigilia dishes as I can ahead of time.

No matter which region in Poland you are from (and as PPS's Pretend Mother, I culturally appropriate from  Lwów), pierogis are crucial at Christmas time. They are tricky to make. Because I haven't made them in awhile, I asked my Polish tutor to come over and give me a refresher course. Frankly, the best advice I can give any non-Pole about pierogi making is to get a nice Polish woman to come over and make them for you. Even if she is only 20, she will have had 15 years experience in making pierogis with her grandmother aka My Babcia.

"This reminds me of making pierogi with My Babcia," enthused 20-something Anna on Thursday morning at 9:45ish, and then I thought about my own Scottish-Canadian grandmother off and on all day, even though I strongly doubt she ever ate a pieróg in her life, much less made one.

I was going to write a step-by-step guide to making pierogi, but I am too sleepy. Instead I recommend that you find a good tutorial on YouTube. Anna's favourite recipe is here, and it is a good one. (Paste it into Google Translate.)  It made the easiest-to-handle pierogi dough I've ever met.  Meanwhile, I will pass along some of Anna's tips, which were:

1. Don't put too much filling in the middle.
2. Wet the edges of every pieróg circle with warm water, using your finger.
3. Mash down the edges with a fork, and then flip over and mash the edges down with a fork again.

As a result of Anna's recipe and good advice, none of my uszki (soup pierogi) and only two of my pierogi leaked in the boiling water. I have made pierogi with cheese and potatoes and pierogi with mushroom and cabbage. They are now in the freezer. In addition to these, I have made kompot (stewed fruit) and kompot (juice from the stewed fruit) and kutia, which is a poppyseed pudding eaten from Warsaw to Moscow, I imagine, and in the households of those who were booted out of Eastern Poland when the borders changed in 1945.  I have also made two sweet little jam jars of herring salads, and at a certain point I realised that even though I promised B.A. I would not make the traditional twelve dishes for Wigilia, I am probably going to do it by accident.

So I confessed to B.A. and he said he didn't mind if I made all 12 as long as I didn't make myself miserable. And I won't be miserable, especially as he is going to make the salmon dish.

I have already made the cake to go into my British-Canadian trifle... and this is where I realise I probably sound a bit mad. But you have to understand that my mother makes hundreds of cookies of a dozen different kinds every Christmas before she makes all our traditional Christmas Day foodstuffs. Both my mother and I (and probably my youngest sister) both really enjoy Christmas baking, and it was a moment of great disappointment when I realised I just do not have the time to bake any more cookies before Christmas Day. Weep, weep.

As for the tree... Every year we put off getting the tree until the 23rd or so because, traditionalists to the bone, we don't like decorating for Christmas before Christmas Eve. Because Scots start buying their trees on December 1, there has always been a risk that B.A. and I wouldn't be able to find a tree on the 23rd. Today was that day. However, I said a prayer and lo: there were two small trees-in-pots in Aldi for £4.99. So now we have a small tree-in-pot, and apparently B.A. is going to decorate it tomorrow.

I will now respond to a few comments. Work has been so busy, I really haven't had the time to read comments, let alone write on the blog.


  1. Well, I wish you and B.A. ein gesegnetes Weihnachten and a as-healthy-as-possible New Year! Thank you for writing.

  2. Someday, for the edification of non-Polish people who very happily consume pierogi, please provide a "step-by-step guide to making pierogi". It would be doing us a huge service! :-) Frequent trips to Poland are not always possible! I know that you are super busy, but...please...please...please...