Ukrainians brought red fife wheat to Canada and with it they made one of their gastronomic gifts to the world – perogies (which they pronounce perohay). At the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village near Edmonton, Alberta, I learned to make these delicious little dumplings.
After all, food is the best way to learn about people. And a lesson in making perogies (also called pyrohy or varenyky ) is enlightening.
I made two of these little handmade dumplings in the same time my teacher could made a dozen! It’s still hard work and made me appreciate them all the more.
The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, a living history museum, complete with costumed interpreters, offers a glimpse into the world of the first pioneers from this community who arrived in 1892.
They arrived in large groups and settled in east central Alberta from 1892-1930. For $10, the government gave them 10 acres of land which they were required to clear and on which they had to build living quarters.
The first homes were burdei , a sod dwelling rather like a dugout which featured a living roof.
Inside was the bed, an oven for baking and most importantly, a stone mill for grinding that wheat into flour. It’s a tough job as I discovered!
Later more permanent homes were built with a “Big Room” for family and entertaining. The walls are adorned with beautiful hand-woven cloth and photos of the saints, and the ceilings hung with dried flowers and herbs, often blessed by the church.
Their faith was important. At the Village, three churches represent the three main religious groups: Ukrainian Catholics, Ukrainian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox. Services are still occasionally held in this one – Ukrainian Orthodox.
The Hilliard Hotel was the first building to have indoor plumbing. Beer was 5 cents and a bed could be had for $1 per night. But card games weren’t permitted. The only entertainment was the found in the pool hall, which also sold alcohol.
A horse and buggy is a wonderful way to explore the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, though it’s a great place for enthusiastic walkers….there’s so much to see here.
But I believe the best way to explore a culture is through its food. And what’s better than a Ukrainian feast ?
On this small plate: pyrohy (perogies) with sour cream and fried onions, cucumber salad, Koubasa (sausage), and Holubtsi (cabbage rolls).