Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pirohi Diaspora

At university, I minored in Russian/East European studies. Despite my enhanced cultural awareness of that region of the world, a story about "pirohi" sent me on a Google search in order to pin down the exact meaning of the word that described what I understand to be "pierogies." If you don't already know, the term indicates Ukrainian heritage ("h" sound) as opposed to Russian influence ("g" sound). That bit of trivia out of the way, I introduce a most pressing issue:

"The food's my favorite part, and the fellowship's a close second," said Dave Gdovin, the president of the St. Michael's Church Council. "It waffles back and forth, depending on if I'm full or not."

While this columnist fell in love with the kobasy -- a synonym of kielbasa, a zesty Polish sausage -- the freshly made pirohi were undoubtedly the day's main attraction. Over 900 dozen pirohi were packed for the one-day festival, and Gdovin said he anticipated a sellout.

In the early evening, as hundreds of those pirohi were being devoured, Binghamton Mayor Matthew T. Ryan made a proclamation, officially declaring Msgr. Stephan Dutko the town's new Pirohi King.

While such a decree might seem frivolous, the pirohi business is a big deal in town. A promotion being run by prime pirohi producer Mrs. T's will soon declare the "Pirohi Capital of the World," and Binghamton will compete with cities like Buffalo, Pittsburgh and New York City, said Gdovin.

If you have ever attended a tailgate party at a Pittsburgh Steelers away game, you've seen kielbasa and pierogies. You wash all that down with Iron City, or some other representative lager. While Pittsburgh is known for putting fries in sandwiches and on salads, the local flavor is decidedly Eastern European. Not to ignore the other ethnic influences on the Burgh identity, but I doubt Pittsburgh would compete with other cities as the capital of the world for any kind of food other than "pirohi."

For me, no trip back to the Burgh is complete without a visit to Pierogies Plus in McKees Rocks. As for kielbasa, I love Parma's "kolbassi," which I assume is a type of kielbasa. But Parma is all about Italian food, so I might be wrong. I've read that "kolbassi is a Western PA thing" (according to beer aficionado Lew Bryson), but I'd appreciate if a reader of this blog would educate me as to the possible distinctions.

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