My husband woke up one Saturday morning and said he was going to make pierogies.
No “good morning.” Just “I’m making pierogies today.”
He got dressed, found a recipe and headed to the grocery store. I don’t know what brought it on, but I’m pretty sure a lot of lifelong Pittsburgh residents like him have such cravings.
I was born here, but moved to Virginia when I was five. I remember my mother asking for chipped ham at the deli counter on our first trip to the grocery store there.
“What?” the clerk said.
“Chipped ham. A pound of chipped ham,” my mother insisted.
The clerk had no idea. My mom tried to explain what she wanted. How do you explain chipped ham? After a few more tries, my mom discovered she had to ask the clerk for a pound of ham “shaved very thin” to get what she wanted for our ham barbeque and lunch sandwiches.
Once we came back to Pittsburgh, among the other things she’d be happy to return to, I’m sure mom enjoyed ordering that chipped ham without explanation.
What is it with Pittsburgh and food? There are documentaries and books on our food, restaurants and traditions involving food.
My husband has Pittsburgh food cravings pop up out of nowhere. The recipe he found on the Internet was actually called Pittsburgh Pierogies.
My friend Marc Rigby told me he makes his own Primanti Bros-type sandwiches at home.
He said he doesn’t think Pittsburgh is known for its food, but I beg to differ when he told me the story of seeing bread, meat and French fries in his fridge and immediately thinking all he needs is cabbage to make a good sandwich.
Marc, who has lived in Pittsburgh all his life, said he’d send anyone looking for a Pittsburgh meal to Primanti’s for their famous sandwich made with your choice of filling, French fries and cole slaw all on Italian bread.
The mention of Primanti’s drives my other friend Courtney Duzyk to drool (I heard her over the phone).
Of Polish decent and Pittsburgh pride, Courtney’s family has a tradition of homemade pierogies on Christmas Eve that she thinks was started by her grandfather’s parents or, she says, her ancestors before them.
Their passed-down dough recipe and potato-cheese-onion filling, which is made from memory and taste tested as the cook goes, was inherited by Courtney’s father, mother and aunt since her grandparents passed and, if I know Courtney, she’ll be making it for her family when the job is passed on again.
Halusky, kielbasa and kraut, sausage and peppers, heck, we have a sandwich named after our Super Bowl quarterback, which Marc says is almost the size of a football.
Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a sandwich does he?
It seems like Pittsburghers’ love of food is just like their love of their teams and of their city. It’s deep in tradition, memorable, enjoyable and awesome.
Marc's Primanti-type Sandwich (makes one)
- "Good" Italian bread, sliced thick
- 2-3 cooked sliced steak, like Steak-umm brand, or one cooked chicken breast
- shredded cabbage
- handful of baked french fries, like Ore-Ida
- black pepper, freshly ground
- hot sauce
Place the meat, French fries and cabbage on one slice of bread. Sprinkle with pepper and hot sauce. Top with another slice of bread.
The Duzyk Family Pierogi Dough (printed with permission from Courtney Duzyk)
- 4 cups flour
- almost a cup of water
- 2 eggs, beaten
Mix ingredients together, knead and roll to desired thickness. Cut circles out of dough and fill with desired filling. Pinch to close. Boil until the pierogies float. If desired, saute in butter.
- "Three Rivers Cookbook" (several different volumes)
- "Out of This Kitchen - A History of the Ethnic Groups and Their Foods in the Steel Valley"