From Where I Sit – Work, Gossip, Laugh

On Saturday six women gathered in my mother’s kitchen for a work bee. We were there for a few reasons. With Roy’s milestone birthday party now only two weeks away, we wanted to make a batch of pereshke. For those who have never tasted this Ukrainian treat, you have no idea what You’re missing. With nutritional and diet advice echoing in our heads, even most Ukrainians enjoy them just once or twice a year. If you scare easily, you may not want to read the next paragraph.

Pereshke are tiny (about an inch and three quarters long by an inch wide and high) bread buns with a cottage cheese filling. This light egg dough was rolled out and cut into small squares. In the centre of each square we put a tiny bit of farm cottage cheese That’s been seasoned. Being careful not to get any filling on the edges, the packet is sealed and then rolled slightly to form tiny torpedo-shaped buns. My sister then rolled each one in her oil-soaked hands and arranged them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

These tasty little bundles are baked for 20 minutes until light, golden brown. At this point, they are brushed with melted butter to give them shine and to soften them. After they were thoroughly cooled, I packed them in plastic bags so they could be frozen until party time.

In case you were thinking there isn’t quite enough oil/fat content in them yet, rest assured. They will be heated in an oven and then served covered in a boiled farm cream, green onion, and fresh dill mixture. I cannot tell you how good these things taste. All together now, can we say coronary heart disease?

Several years ago as we were discussing plans for Greg and Carrie’s wedding, Greg’s single request for the whole shebang was that there be served to the head table pyrogies and pereshke for the midnight lunch. (Pyrogies are a cousin to pereshke. They are boiled, triangular pouches with a cottage cheese and mashed potato filling. Poppy seed, prune, and even sauerkraut fillings are often prepared for the traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal on January 6.) That work bee, eight years ago, involved many more women and was done in the hall kitchen.

In Saturday’s operation, my mom made the dough and rolled and cut the squares. My aunt was already there when I arrived, adding the filling. Soon, my sister and our friend came along and got busy. Hilary, who was honoured at a party the night before, arrived at the crack of 11. There is something quaint, organic, and pioneer-like in having a multi-generational group of women gather to work and gossip and laugh. To prepare special food for special gatherings. To rise to the occasion and help someone in the group. It’s also a great training ground for younger people, lest all these recipes and traditions die with the matriarchs of the family. All in all, a very agreeable way to spend a few hours, from where I sit.

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