If I told you my heritage brought me back to beautiful grassland, stunning architecture, and the most fertile land to find for miles- the constant desire of those around them- would you know I’m from Ukraine?
Would you know the story of Mama, my great grandmother, who was shipped by her parents to the United States at just thirteen years old? The wars had gotten so terrifying in the early 1900’s, her parents felt that their child was safest over 5,000 miles away from them. She was given her sister’s birth certificate- a 13 year old couldn’t cross the Atlantic Ocean, but a 16 year old could.
With her, Pauline Hrynyshyn brought the culture of her people to America. She married, had children (including my grandmother, Mildred), and unfortunately, died a week before I was born.
Where I’m from, we eat pedaheh. Also, commonly known as perogies.
The recipe has been passed down for generations. Mama made it with Midlred, Mildred with her children (my father, aunts, and uncle), and with her children’s children. The process takes almost 10 hours, and Mama would start at 6 a.m. sharp.
Pedaheh is similar to ravioli; soft dough which is filled (in this case, with potatoes, cheese, and various other items) and boiled. The first day, the stuffing is made. It takes approximately four hours on its own, peeling, slicing, and boiling the potatoes until they’re soft. Then they must be mashed and mixed with sautéed onions, cheeses, and butter, then left to cool (for 12 hours!).
The dough is made the next morning, through hours upon hours of hard labor- mixing and rolling and mixing and rolling. The potato mixture is placed in the center, the dough folded, and the pedaheh placed in water to boil.
It’s impossible to imagine a thanksgiving without pedaheh. Or a Christmas without hearing my grandmother speak of the countless attempts she has made to perfect these delicious pockets of flavor. Of her four children, my father is the only to successfully create pedaheh- “It’s all about keeping the dough folded,” he always says- and I am soon to learn.
Next time I have two full days to spare, that is.