Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Learning to Cook Polish

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Learning to Cook Polish

Article excerpt

As a fourth-generation American descendent of Scots-Irish and German forebears who did not pass down a single tradition from their European motherlands, I've long harbored a bit of jealousy toward friends whose families were more ethnically inclined. Poles, Italians, Slovaks all had their Kennywood days and better food at their cookouts, better music at their weddings and even did the seemingly impossible by making church attendance sound occasionally interesting.

So it was with that same mix of envy and interest that I approached the Polish Heritage Cooking Workshop class sponsored by the Polish Falcons and held Saturday, June 7, at their Sokol Club hall on the South Side. The workshop was conducted not by babcias in babushkas but rather by a gentleman who looked like Rob Reiner in a chef's toque: Larry Kozlowski, a retired college professor from the North Side who is the national organization's cultural commissioner.

"It's a connection to where we came from," he said of heritage cooking, noting that with each passing generation, traditions fade or become diluted, underscoring the need for the class. "Once we're gone from here, those are the ways we live on. That's our legacy."

Previous workshops have been conducted in Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsfield, Mass., but he said that Pittsburgh had the largest turnout, where roughly 70 attendees - tweens to near nonogenarians - participated, some decked out in red and white "Proud to be Polish" and "You Wanna Pinch My Pierogie?" T-shirts. Placki (potato pancakes), Polish potato soup, apple compote, ruskie (or 'Ruthenian' - potato and cheese) and leniwe (or "lazy-man") pierogies and fried dough chrusciki were all on the day's syllabus and menu.

"I learned all this growing up and at the time, I hated it. I'd rather have been out playing baseball," Mr. Kozlowski joked. Clearly it made an impression, as he's written seven books on Polish and Slovak culture. He intends to lead future workshops on Polish crafts, and on Christmas and Easter traditions.

He discussed the history of the pierogie and offered these tidbits about Pittsburgh's favorite dumpling: its Italian cousin is ravioli, the concept is believed to have come to Eastern Europe from Asia and the pierogie has its own patron saint, Saint Hyacinth. …

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