I haven’t done a lot of writing this holiday weekend. Instead, my creativity came out in the form of cooking. This makes a lot of sense for Thanksgiving Day, but for some reason the cooking bug is staying strong through the weekend. On Friday, I made piragi* for the very first time. Piragi are Latvia’s pierogis (I’m Latvian on my maternal side), and couldn’t be simpler: tiny bread rolls stuffed with bacon and onion. You read that right: Bread, bacon, and onion all in one bite. You’re welcome.
I remember eating these each time I visited my grandparents in Ontario (first in Toronto, and then in Millbrook where they moved to a small farm upon retiring). Thanks to the baking talents of Nanny, the tiny rolls were always there in a basket or large bowl, covered lovingly with a tea towel. Nanny and Pappa’s house always smelled like pirags (for some reason, they constantly left off the “i”), probably because Nanny was constantly working on a new batch, the last ones being devoured as soon as they were made. I remember watching her when I was younger, making my own little rolls with leftover dough; Nanny was pretty fussy about the pirags themselves turning out just right, so she rarely let the kids chip in with filling or rolling. My mother reminded me of my high-school graduation party where Nanny made over 100 pirags – twice. The first batch wasn’t perfect enough to meet her standards, the rolls not completely closed, or the egg brush glaze not quite right. Something small set her off, and so she painstakingly rolled out another 100 for the guests. Those were perfect, but never enjoyed because our golden retriever ate all of them. And so the imperfect batch was served to the guests. No one seemed to notice.
Last night, it was time to make pirags without familial guidance, without any expectations. Yet, I found myself comparing my efforts to hers, critiquing the size and shape, the taste of the filling. In truth, I can’t remember exactly how hers tasted, except delicious. I had a few challenges as I worked with yeast and rising dough for the first time, and as I tried to figure out how large a chunk of dough I needed to stuff and fold, but overall I claim success. After all, you really can’t mess up bread, bacon, and onion that badly, despite Nanny’s insistence.
*Note: The link isn’t to my family’s recipe, just one I found online