by Joanne Reimer
My mother was the queen of perogie makers. She created the ultimate perogie consisting of a plump potato and cheddar cheese filling encased in her whisper-thin dough.
When it was time to make perogies, we worked as a team. She did the “heavy lifting,” starting the labour-intensive process by making the filling and preparing the dough. She rolled out the dough, cut it into squares and then deftly filled and sealed the squares so that they wouldn’t disintegrate during boiling. My job was to drop the perogies quickly into a large pot of boiling water and gently retrieve them when they rose to the surface. Smothered in caramelized onions, they were ready to serve.
When I was a young woman, my mother developed breast cancer, and when she got close to the end of her life, I frantically declared to her that I needed to know how to make perogie dough. Her response made me laugh: “I wouldn’t bother. The better you are at it, the more you are expected to make them.” In my heritage, such advice was akin to heresy!
I often reflect on that conversation, and the memory still makes me chuckle. My mother was never one for lengthy dialogues. Her one-liners were cogent, sincere and always had my best interests at heart. When I told her that I would return home after graduate school rather than move to the West Coast—how could I think about moving when she was seriously ill?—she responded, “You have gone so far. Why don’t you keep on going.”
To this day, I have never made perogies, and I don’t buy those frozen ones with dough that tastes like leather. I make “lazy perogies” that my family loves, thanks to their grandmother whom they never met except through her one-liners. Even though the Callanish cooks may not serve these perogies on retreat (being a wheat-free zone), they fully support the role that comfort food, passed down through families for generations, plays in healing the heart and soul.
In this article from the Winnipeg Free Press, you will find a recipe for lazy perogies, although I don’t entirely follow the recipe. I use fettuccine noodles to reduce the pasta load and add cottage cheese with egg and dill as another layer. My mother would be proud!
Joanne Reimer has been connected to Callanish since its inception in 1995 and has been a program assistant and baker at Callanish for the past several years. She brings many years of experience working in the healthcare system as a hospice consultant and researcher.