Born in Maruszyna, Poland, my mother moved to Chicago, working as a waitress, trying to make a better life for herself. She went back to Poland for a wedding and met my dad (ironically, she had once worked for his father but never knew it). Six months later, they were married and would soon raise a family in the United States.
By going to classes and watching TV, Mom learned to speak English. Polish was my first language too; English was taught in school, but it was definitely improved by TV. My parents were determined to instill the Polish culture in my brother and me. They wanted us to speak and read the language, go to church, and eat the traditional foods: breaded pork chops, meatloaf, duck, cucumber salad (mizeria), and lots of soup. I tagged along when my mom went to the grocery store, helping her get everything on her list, and then making vegetable salad with her at the kitchen counter. A cousin from Austria taught her how to make spaghetti, and that was the first “American” meal she made.
When my brother and I were little, Mom decided to go to college, taking night classes to be an accountant, and I didn’t see her during the week. My grandma (Babcia) was living with us; she and my dad made sure we ate dinner, and Babcia would feed me fruit sprinkled with sugar—not the healthiest idea but so delicious.
Too many of Babcia’s recipes died with her, and I was determined that wouldn’t happen with my mom’s recipes. She wants me to learn them so that I can make them for my fiancé in the future and continue our culinary heritage. She's a bit loosey-goosey when it comes to quantities, but the result is always amazing. The first one I've written down is the dish that I could eat every day: blueberry pierogi.
My mom is now a hardworking accountant with a side business doing taxes, also working with cousins in Poland on land properties. Like many children who are sometimes self-conscious about a parent's "foreign" accent or unusual food heritage—wanting to be "like everybody else"—I can’t say that I wasn’t embarrassed as a child with two foreign parents. But now I think it is so amazing that they came to America for a better life, and I appreciate them so much.
Ela Bobak works in advertising in Chicago, Illinois. Her blog is at https://www.elabobak.com/.
2 c. blueberries
1 t. sugar (or to taste)
1 - 2 lb. twaróg or other soft white cheese such as farmer’s cheese
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. water
1 T. soft butter
(optional) whipped cream
Mix fillings ingredients and set aside.
Place flour on a wooden board or in a bowl, and pour on the hot water.
Mix with a spoon until a soft mass starts to form, then add butter and egg.
Knead dough with hands until firm.
Roll our dough with a rolling pin, and use a glass cup to make the circles.
Add about 1 T. filling to center of each circle, and pinch the edges firmly (if you don't have a pierogi device like we do).
Cook in boiling water for 7 - 10 minutes until tender.
Top with melted butter, a sprinkle of sugar and optional whipped cream.
(See all the steps here.)