10 Unexpected Things Inspired by Pierogi
#lifestyle & opinion
default, photo: Janusz Wójtowicz/ Polska Press/East News, center, pierogi-en.jpg
Chances are that even if you know nothing about Poland, you still know what pierogi are! Pierogi are likely the most popular Polish dish abroad – and in Poland, of course. Due to their popularity the Polish dumplings have inspired a number of non-culinary creations! Culture.pl takes a look at some of the most unexpected items we found including a video art piece, a giant monument and even a mascot!
A baby penguin in Cincinnati
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Pierogi the penguin at the Cincinnati Zoo, photo: press materials of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
To start things off we have something quite unexpected as well as utterly cute. A baby penguin was born at the Cincinnati Zoo on New Year’s Eve. On 4th January 2019, the zoo launched an online vote looking for its name. The only condition was that the newcomer had to be named after a food or beverage like all the other little blue penguins at the zoo.
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After almost a week of anticipation, on 10th January, the Cincinnati Zoo posted the following announcement on its Facebook page: ‘The votes are in!!! Say hello to – Pierogi.’ And, needless to say, the message was accompanied by an absolutely delightful photo of the baby penguin. Bravo, Internet!
A gnome in Wrocław
It’s really hard to find something as charming as a baby penguin but the next item on our list is a real charmer as well – it’s a pierogi gnome. The jolly fellow resides in the city of Wrocław, he’s about 30 cm tall and lives on one of the streets leading to Market Square (at 10 Kuźnicza Street, to be precise). This light-hearted urban sculpture shows its subject gripping a fork – almost as tall as the gnome itself – with a nice pieróg (or singular pierogi) stuck on it.
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The pierogi gnome is one in over four hundred gnomes that inhabit the city of Wrocław. These small sculptures have been appearing in various places throughout the city since the early 2000s and are one of its major symbols. Here’s how visitWrocław, the city’s official travel website, describes the pierogi gnome:
A gourmand and admirer of good food. He likes a plate of hot, high-fat garnished Ruthenian pierogi with onion better than any other delicacy. Since he’s never shy to indulge his culinary desires a pleasant and easy smile is always present on his face. Without a doubt he’s one of the happiest gnomes in Lower Silesia.
A monument in Canada
At the other end of the size scale you have the ‘Giant Perogy’ monument in Glendon – a village in Alberta, Canada. The huge monument, made of steel and fiberglass, stands at over 8 metres tall (26 ft), is about 3,5 metres wide (over 11 ft) and weighs almost 3 tons. Now that’s one sizeable pierogi!
The monument, created in the early 1990s, also shows a pierogi on a fork. Word has it that at first the monument consisted of just the dumpling, but people weren’t sure what it was – apparently mistaking it for other foods.
Glendon is a small village with less than 500 residents. The monument stands in front of its only restaurant, the Perogy Café, which fittingly serves… pierogi. Just in slightly smaller servings.
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Pierogi mascots participating in the Great Pierogi Race held during Pittsburgh Pirates’ baseball games, photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The next item on our list is also of epic proportions. The Great Pierogi Race! The race is named after its mascots which make their appearances during the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team’s home games at PNC Park.
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The race takes place after the 5th inning and features five contestants wearing giant pierogi costumes: Sauerkraut Saul, Cheese Chester, Jalapeño Hannah, Oliver Onion and Bacon Burt. The pierogi run around the pitch much to the amusement of the baseball fans. There were, however, in changes in the line-up during the race’s longstanding history (dating back to 1999). Here’s how the Pittsburgh Magazine reports on this in its 2016 article titled Break It Down: The Great Pierogy Race:
After Cheese Chester broke his foot in a July 2014 race, the previously retired Potato Pete returned to the line-up. Once Chester completed a rehab stint, he and Pete competed, one-on-one, for the right to continue. Chester came out victorious, and Pete is currently said to be locked in a freezer.
Pierogi have not only influenced America’s favourite pastime but also its music. The heart-warming Pierogi Polka is a good example. The tune was recorded in 1954 by noted Polish-American musician, singer and leader of the polka band Polish Spike Jones, Walt Solek (1910-2005). During his lengthy musical career, Solek enjoyed a number of hits like Who Stole The Keeshka or Coal Miners Polka. In Pierogi Polka, the artist sings of his love for pierogi: ‘they are mighty fine’, and encourages the listener to try this delicacy: ‘if you buy them, you will like them’. A true pierogi lover’s message.
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Another song inspired by Pierogi is the 2018 viral hit Eat Pierogi by the British band Mee and the Band. According to the band the tune was ‘written to best describe how passionate Polish people get about their precious national dumplings!’ That explains why in the song, Alexandra, the band’s vocalist (who happens to have Polish roots), sings: ‘keep your hands of my pierogi, don’t you touch my pierogi!’
A Nobel Prize-winning rhyme
Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012) is one of Poland’s most famous poets. In 1996, Szymborska received the Nobel Prize in literature. In 2003, she published a volume of her less serious works, titled Rymowanki dla Dużych Dzieci (Rhymes for Grown-Up Children). In it you’ll find limericks, other short poems, as well as very brief literary forms dealing with specific themes e.g. discouraging from drinking alcohol or warning against bad dishes served at (fictitious) restaurants. Among the latter you find the following rhyme about pierogi, the kind you definitely shouldn’t order:
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It’s better to have your legs broken, than to eat local pierogi.
This is up to interpretation… We think that local pierogi when in Poland are pretty much a safe bet.
Here’s another kind of pierogi you wouldn’t want to eat. Because they’re made of soap. Manufactured from natural ingredients by the American company Regent Park Naturals based in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, these pierogi are meant for the bathtub, not for the pot. And don’t let their scrumptious-sounding ingredients mislead you. These include things like oatmeal or oil of marjoram and clove. Still, the wonderful pierogi made from these ingredients are meant for washing up not for being washed down…
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There are seven kinds of the pierogi-shaped soaps: the different varieties include the spearmint and lavender Appalachian Meadow or the ‘icy’ Babcia’s Original – a homage to Poland (in Polish ‘Babcia’ means Grandma).
Next up is a place called Pierogi, but one that doesn’t serve food for the body, but rather food for the soul instead. The place in question is a well-known art gallery in New York City at 155 Suffolk Street. For the past twenty-five years, the Pierogi Gallery has presented the works of numerous up-and-coming artists.
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Pierogi features the work of emerging and mid-career artists in an eclectic range of media—from the conceptual drawings of Mark Lombardi to the multi-media works of Jonathan Schipper, and the dynamic large-scale paintings of Yoon Lee, to the panoramic and filmic drawings of Dawn Clements.
Pierogi Gallery website
Although the gallery does have a post-industrial satellite location named the Boiler in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there seems to be no boiled or otherwise cooked pierogi available on its premises…
Some video art
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A still from Justyna Misiuk’s video installation ‘Pierogi – Dumplings Team’, 2011/2012, 06:32, photo: wrocenter.pl
The Pierogi gallery looks like a place where the artistic video installation Pierogi – Dumplings Team could find a home. Created in 2011 and 2012 by Polish artist Justyna Misiuk, the piece shows a group of teenage boys preparing a batch of pierogi – making the dough, forming the dumplings and boiling them. Acting on the premise that in Polish culture making pierogi is traditionally associated with women, the artist conversely places male characters in the kitchen in an attempt to explore stereotypical gender roles in society.
Selected works by Wojciech Puś – Image Gallery
A brand new book
Last but not least we have Culture.pl’s newest publication Quarks, Elephants & Pierogi: Poland in 100 Words. Thought up and created by members of our editorial team the book is, according to Juliette Bretan:
Illustrations from 'Quarks, Elephants & Pierogi: Poland in 100 Words' – Image Gallery
A tour de force of investigation into what makes Poland Polish, traversing 100 words specifically picked out to demonstrate the essence of the country, alongside the elasticity of its language and multi-cultural background.
Quarks, Elephants & Pierogi tells the story of one hundred Polish words, showcasing Poland’s culture, history and language. Apart from being well-written – something that’s, one might humbly add, characteristic of all Culture.pl publications – it also includes a series of magnificent illustrations by Polish illustrator Magdalena Burdzyńska. And on the cover you’ll find none other than a glorious image of a ‘deified’… pierogi. Have a tasty read!
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Author: Marek Kępa, Apr 2019