It was 1990 in Banff, Alberta, in the heart of the Canadian Rockies when I had my first kiss. I remember it vividly. The Banff Mountain Ski Academy was hosting our team for a set of races at Nakiska. We’d be racing the same downhill course that had been used for the Women’s Olympics just two years before. I was terrified.
But I was turning 15, that tender age when you morph from innocent kid into hormonal teenager. Boys were a good distraction, and there was a kid on our team who stood out. He was strong and confident, cocky even. I was downright attracted. What girl wouldn’t be? At least in the early teenage years, when the concept of boy-girl attraction is so new. The nice guys were a blip in my rearview mirror.
With a few days to kill before the race, we arrived in Banff ready to eat, sleep and train. We bunked up with our hosts and settled into our new schedule.
And then it happened. Out of nowhere, the kid started to flirt. I must have spun around in surprise. He hadn’t spoken a word to me all season long. But here he was, trying to make me laugh. I welcomed the attention. I had a huge crush on him after all.
So, one night after a Polish-themed dinner, we crept upstairs. With the smell of ski wax and the sound of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon filling the air, we kissed. It should have been an incredible moment, but it wasn’t. I expected romance and here was this guy, groping like he was searching for something.
Fortunately, I’d fallen in love with something else that night: pierogies.
I didn’t eat them for years after that evening. In fact it wasn’t until I was watching the Food Network in my early 20s that I saw them again. And it brought everything back: the snow, the dinner, the kiss.
It was right at the time when I was learning to cook and I knew that I’d have to track them down. So I jumped onto Yahoo to find the best pierogies in town (I know that I’m dating myself here, but in the spirit of full disclosure, Google was, ahem, not around). And there it was at the top of Yahoo’s search, the highest rated pierogi in New York City: First Avenue Pierogi & Deli.
I pulled on some shoes, and raced out the door, Sony Discman bobbing at my waist….I would find some pierogies that day, if it was the last thing I’d do. It had been 10 years since we’d seen each other. Enough with the long-distance relationship, it was time for a steamy reunion.
And here comes the second whopping disappointment of this whole pierogi tale: the store was closed. For the summer. Who closes for the summer? I can understand an ice cream store closing for the winter, but summertime pierogies, is that such a stretch? Apparently for these guys it is. Who knows if they’ve changed their ways. I haven’t gone back. Once bitten kind of thing…although I am still curious if they’re as good as everyone claims.
Fortunately my local Garden of Eden grocery store carries a brand of All Natural pierogies. Most premade pierogies are filled with preservatives and other junk, but these are the real deal. If you can find them, they go by the name “Family’s” which is a little odd. I have visions of some greasy-haired guy in Newark making them in his kitchen, wrapping them in cellophane and calling it a day. But they’re good, I can get past the name.
And the best part is that they’re a quick fix meal. If you think that making pasta is easy, then you’ll love these. There’s no water to boil, just unwrap your dumplings, throw them into a hot pan with some olive oil and they’re ready to serve. You can mix it up by adding whatever veggies you’d like. Last week, it was kale and oyster mushrooms.
I feel compelled to tell you that there wasn’t any cheating on my vegan cleanse with this dish. My pierogies were completely egg– and dairy–free, stuffed with nothing but potatoes and mushrooms, but there are plenty of other fillings available if your diet isn’t as restrictive. Amazon even stocks an All Natural brand that’s gluten free.
So there you have it, pierogies, love, vegan cleanses, and quick fix meals. The kind of update you were probably looking for this week. I’m just glad that when Sochi rolls around in a few weeks I’ll be watching it from the comfort of my own home. I’ve had enough ski thrills to last me a lifetime. I get my kicks from pierogies these days, which suits me just fine.
- 1 big bunch of kale, cleaned and sliced crosswise into strips
- 1 large oyster mushroom, torn into piece
- 2-4 Tbsps olive oil
- 1 16-oz package of pierogies
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a large sautee pan on medium heat and when hot, add a half cup of water and the kale.
- Cover with a lid, and let the kale wilt for a minute.
- Take the kale off and place on a paper towel, then wipe the pan down and add 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add the mushrooms and leave them in place for about a minute, letting them get nice and crispy.
- While the mushrooms are cooking, squeeze any water out of the kale using the paper towel, and add the kale to a large bowl.
- Once they've gotten crispy on one side, toss the mushrooms and let them cook through, another minute; season with salt and pepper, and add to the kale.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan and add the pierogies, letting them get nice and brown and crisp on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
- When the pierogies are done, add them to the bowl, toss ingredients together and if you'd like, top them with some parmesan cheese. I kept mine vegan without, but the beauty of this dish is that you can make it whatever way you'd like.
Fantastic. My husband loves pierogies too!
Wonder whatever happened to that guy anyway… 😉
Who knows, we aren’t even Facebook friends like some of my crew from the old days…funny how we lose touch with people who were once the most important people in our little worlds…
Sounds delicious. Not sure if we have Family’s in Toronto but I’ll take a look. Yes, what ever happened to that guy?
Maybe whole foods? But if they don’t have that brand, I’m sure they stock another that’ll be just as good. And who knows, who cares, ski days long behind me 🙂
Great post. Funny how those first kisses are never as good as they are supposed to be! 🙂
Thanks Lor! Damn straight they’re not, Hollywood and John Cusak owe us an apology…
We grew up on pierogi in Wpg made by little old ladies at the Church. The best! The best are cheddar and believe it or not, blueberry! Needs sour cream to make it authentic!
So, I never heard of those, but they look GOOD. I’m gonna add them to my list of things to try to make.
YUM. pierogies are a staple here in western pa. lots of local eastern european type churches will sell them for fundraisers. or random old lady neighbors will make them for us. sooo good. still haven’t made my own but need to try them soon!
— jackie @ jade and oak
Love your writing, and can’t wait to try this dish!
Thanks so much Caitlin, such an awesome compliment 🙂 Yes, please try and let me know how it goes!
I grew up in Alberta, and loved pierogies. When I lived in Oregon, there were none, and I learned how to make them. Loved your Proust moment with a pierogi rather than a Madeleine.