My earliest memories of home made food came from my Babci (Polish for grandmother) when I was around 10 years old. My grandmother used to make such specialties as pierogi (stuffed dumplings) and galumki (cabbage rolls) on a regular basis, especially around the holidays. I remember us sitting at the kitchen table pinching the little dumplings shut with floured fingers and later eating them; each with a golden fried crust and a black peppery bite (oh, and while watching the 'Price is Right' on the television).
Up until a few years ago, I had only dreamt of my grandmother's pierogi and wished so badly that I had picked the recipe off her before she passed. I was told by other family members, however, that Babci didn't keep a recipe book. Everything was in her head and she didn't even own measuring spoons. She just made the dough and pierogi by instinct from years of helping her own grandmother or mother perhaps. I scoured every polish book and internet recipe and learned that no 2 recipes are the same. Every family had a different twist. With a few simple ingredients like flour, eggs, and butter it comes out in a dough and cooks to resemble a dumpling one way or the other.
Pierogis are dumplings as raviolis are to italy and wontons are to China. Every culture or country seems to have their own dumpling- type food. The pierogi, like any other dumpling, can have various stuffings. A few classics are sauerkraut, mushroom, minced pork and farmer's cheese (a fresh unripened cheese).
I remember my grandmother mixing them up and me preying that I would get a cheese filled one on the next bite.
So in the end, when my aunt asked me to help her replicate the cheese pierogi, as Babci made for us around Christmas years ago, I casted back to my childhood. We hardly followed a recipe. The 3 batches of dough we made were slightly different each time but each unique in the end. (350 total!) Sometimes you have to abandon the recipe and cook from your heart, cook from your memory. Smell, taste, touch , and take in all the senses you can and not worry about a piece of paper telling you how to do things. The cheese pierogi we made that day came out very similar to my Babci's and I know now that she had a strong impact on my life in food today.