On the production and consumption of pierogis, by Tomasz Rozycki

In honor of familial feasting of all kinds we thought we would offer the great Pierogi Divertimento from Tomasz Rozycki’s book-length modern-day epic Twelve Stations, which we sampled in large part in Little Star #4 and will shortly appear in its entirety, in Bill Johnston’s translation, from Zephyr Press.

It suffices to know that Twelve Stations follows the journey of a youngish grandson who embarks on a consequential journey at the behest of his grandma.

O Fantasticality! O Imagination! O Gnosis, Neurosis, and Hyperbole!
Render me capable of describing what took place next! In the early morning,

though not so early as one might have thought,
the Grandson was already on his way back through the Police Gate.
He moved at a lively pace across the familiar courtyard,
which had once been witness to his delightful childhood,
yet now lay in smoldering ruins; he passed through puddles,
mud, and potholes, passed them by, stepped in them and wiped his shoes
………clean, all the while
led by a single thought that twinkled over him like a Guiding Star:
pierogis. Because ever since he could remember, pierogis were the
………enduring fundament
of the family, over pierogis even hostile factions would meet,
and for pierogis the Peace of God would be declared every Friday.
Babcia alone knew how to make them in such a way
that they acquired extraordinary renown among acquaintances as well as
………friends. They were known
in several principal variants according to the season,
the foremost kind being ruskie or “Ukrainian” pierogi, which could
………be enjoyed
equally in winter, spring, or fall, with the exception of certain days at the
………start of the summer
when it is the time of new potatoes, which are too watery
and thus unsuitable for pierogi production. At such a time
Babcia would alternately make pierogis with cabbage or fruit pierogis,
immensely popular especially among the children, of whom there were
………always many in the house.
They were also known by the appellation of knydle, when in late summer
they contained plums, though normally they were stuffed with sweet
or sour cherries, strawberries, or blueberries, while the whole dish
………was slathered
in sour cream and sugar to taste, thus unlocking the salivary glands
of even the most reluctant eaters. That time of the year was also the period
of cabbage pierogis, a variety of which would appear on the Christmas
………Eve table
alongside the barszcz and the uszka—appear and then disappear again,
………in the manner of a comet.
Lastly, on very rare occasions, for a change Babcia would make pierogis
………with meat,
though never on a Friday, because of the fast and out of respect for the Lord.
Thus, Friday became a celebrated day among the many relatives,
and was a time for all manner of family councils and decisions.
The Grandson, led from far away by the thought of them, was right now
………skirting the largest puddle,
with which he had been familiar since communist times, when it was known
as the Fucket, from the frequent exclamations of those who stepped into it in
………the dark
as they returned directly home from work in the evening.

But wait! Stop! Let him pause for a moment as he straddles it,
till the reader can be disabused of any doubts
that up till now may have troubled his exquisite soul.
We are after all in the Third Happy Millennium,
the Twenty-First Century, and the reader, doubtless a habitué
of Internet barbecues and a lover of virtual grilled sausage,
may well be asking in vain: what in fact are these pierogis
of which we speak? For such persons, then, I will provide a recipe…

Read more in Little Star Weekly

Tomasz Rozycki was born in 1970 in the Polish town of Opole. He has published, in Polish, nine books of poetry and a translation of Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés. This passage is drawn from his book-length mock-epic poem, Twelve Stations, which received many awards in Poland including the Koscielski Foundation Prize; it will be published in January Bill Johnston’s English translation. A long excerpt appeared in Little Star #4.

Bill Johnston is the translator of many works from the Polish. His translation of Wiesław Mysliwski’s Stone Upon Stone received the 2012 PEN Translation Prize and the Best Translated Book Award for fiction of that year.




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