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6th Pierogi Festival in Krakow
15th August 2008
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15-17 August 2008

Fried pierogis. Photo from Krakow Festival Office's archive„The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.” It is difficult to disagree with this phrase by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, published two centuries ago in his book entitled „The Physiology of Taste”. What could be the material value of the innovative taste of pierogi, traditional Polish dumplings with various fillings, so deeply rooted in the Polish cuisine? It turns out that Krakow's restaurateurs do not need to be especially prodded to try their luck in a competition for the most delicious variety of pierogi.

During last year's festival, the jury's and the participants' pick were pierogi filled with spinach, buckwheat porridge and smoked meat, as well as pierogi with apples coated in rose petals. What surprises will the gourmet chefs prepare this year?

This edition of the Festival envisages more than just the competition for the statuettes of King Casimir the Great (public vote) and St. St. Hyacinth with Pierogi (decision of a professional jury). The Festival will be completed by fairs, artistic performances and presentations of the really difficult art of kneading dough and forming pierogi. However, it is first and foremost a paradise for gourmets. Last year 180 thousand pierogi were eaten. Quite impressive!

Where does the idea of the event come from? As the organisers emphasize, the concept of the Festival is a reference to one of the oldest Polish culinary traditions. It seeks to promote the tastes of Old-Polish cuisine among tourists visiting the city of Polish kings. The fact that the event is held in August is no coincidence. This is a continuation of a long tradition involving sprinkling herbs with holy water and making pierogi on the Day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (in Poland the day is known as the day of the Blessed Mother of the Herbs). It is also a tribute to Saint Hyacinth (born in 1183 in Kamień Śląski, died on 15 August 1257 and buried in the Church of the Dominican Fathers in Krakow), a preacher and missionary who is also worshipped outside of Poland. Legend has it that in times of famine, St. Hyacinth helped the poor by feeding them pierogi, a dish invented and prepared by himself. According to another tale, one day, when passing through the streets of Krakow, the saint simply gave some pierogi, then considered as a delicacy, to the city’s poor.

Although both Poles and foreigners generally believe that pierogi are a typical dish of Old-Polish cuisine, it is not altogether true. Pierogi originated in China. They were brought to Europe, and more precisely to Italy, by Marco Polo. According to historical accounts, the Asian invention reached Poland in the 13th century, thanks to a relative of St. Hyacinth - Bishop Ivo Odrowąż, who fell in love with the dish when he first tasted it during his stay in Kiev.

The Poles took an instant liking to pierogi. For years, they have been our culinary specialty. Our great-grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers made them, and now our generation has also got round to it. It's even possible to say that this Polish delicacy is experiencing a period of renaissance.

The word itself started to be commonly used in the Polish language in the 17th century. According to Aleksander Brückner’s dictionary, this is the only relic of the pre-Slavonic word „pir” meaning a feast, which was also the name of ritual dough. In the past, pierogi were only made for special occasions and, depending on the holiday, were filled with different ingredients and had various forms. „Kurnik” (hen-house) was one of the most popular types - large and with various fillings, but always with chicken meat inside. „Knysze”, special mourning pierogi were served during wakes. At the beginning of the New Year, „kolatki” were made in order to commemorate the old pagan holiday called „Kolada”. There were also some regional varieties: „hreczuszki” - made of buckwheat flour, as well as „sanieszki” and „socznie” - sweet dumplings usually made for one's name day.

Simple but filling, rediscovered and enriched with modern fillings - this is precisely what our beloved pierogi are like!
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