I am filled with dough – which is a perfectly fine way to finish a weekend.
My leavened state comes courtesy of a trip across the border and back, to Whiting, Indiana then to Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood.
The reason for all that driving: It was time to make a pilgrimage to the celebration of Polish and Slovackian food and culture that is Whiting’s Pierogi Fest (pierogifest.net/) , the 19th annual salute to the dumpling that would make John Candy proud (www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmSC52Npuq0) – then to get some of Chicago’s best pizzas to take home.
Of course, it wouldn’t be America without that food tribute involving a tossing of the item and a contest for consuming large quantities of them, which I left to others this time, still sore from my dramatic loss in the Irish American Heritage Center mashed potato eating event.
Event organizers have boasted that this fest can draw 200,000 people over a weekend, and Sunday afternoon it did seem like half of Warsaw was in town.
It was so crowded, we dropped off Tom’s dad at the entrance before we parked, then couldn’t find him for a bit. We were set to put his picture up on telephone poles and tall Poles, but he finally called, which is why God had someone invent cellphones (though I am hoping it becomes legal to put GPS chips in toddlers, teens, ex-spouses, and senior citizens).
With so many people in the way, I missed seeing Mr. Pierogi this time, or his Polish Donut of a wife, but did pick up one of his officially sanctioned Body By Pierogi t-shirts – and promptly spilled a dollop of yellow mustard on it while eating a deep fried bacon encrusted hot dog slathered in cheese product and jalapenos. I don’t know why they were selling those at a Polish fest, but they sounded so unhealthy I had to try one. It was either that or the deep fried Pop Tart.
On a food and fashion binge, I also bought a t-shirt reading Stop Staring at My Kielbasa, while my buddy Tom opted for The Party Doesn’t Start Until the Kielbasa Comes Out! one – which I think means he supports having a good time with gay Polish sausages, which is very progressive of him.
Tom also said that the sign at the exit reading “I’m glad you came, now go home,” reminded him of what women often say to him after the first five minutes alone together. Or maybe it was what he says to them. Either way, I hope there was a casing on that kielbasa. I mean, the poor guy got a blueberry stain on the ass end of his golf shirt that looked like a bird crapped on him. He needs to be careful.
The Andy Warhol-like poster in question (and Warhol was, indeed, Polish: www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Polish-show-digs-into-Andy-Warhols-Slovakian-roots/28461), had the parting quote attributed to Helen Kocan. According to publicity for the event, down in Pierogi Fest-land, this is The Year of Auntie Kocan who was the Supreme President of the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association.
I wonder if she would approve of the Carmelite nuns raising money with a dunk tank? That’s right. You could soak a sister, as long as you didn’t make it a habit.
You could also take in a polka band and watch ethnic dancing while enjoying your eats: pierogies filled with blueberries, meat, cheese, potatoes, even taco meat, but alas, no alligator on Sunday as it sold out fast; sausages of all sorts, some the size of pythons; kebab-skis; fancy hamburgers; halupkis (cabbage rolls); and haluski (noodles and cabbage).
For some reason, the latter now is my nickname. While cabbage may be part of my Irish heritage, little about me is noodly – and stop staring at my kielbasa.
Speaking of Irish, they could learn something from this fest. Sure, the Irish have two parades in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day and countless others in the suburbs and lots of fests. Would it be so tough to close a few blocks for a street party in honor of corned beef, colcannon, or salmon every summer?
Heck, salmon freezes up nice for the cooler, just like pierogies do.
Which is to day, we brought dozens of frozen dumplings back with us – along with cooked pizzas from Pudgy’s in Hegewisch, a small, carryout and delivery place on Baltimore Avenue (www.hegewisch.net/pudgys/).
Pudgy’s is worth the drive for its thin crust and two house specialties. One is on the menu everyday – Bob’s Mistake, a pie Pudgy’s owner Bob Zajac said he onced ordered before he owned the place, which was delivered with the wrong ingredients but which turned out so well he and his buddies kept ordering it.
My Mom said the same thing about me once. Or was that Tom about one of his dates.
The other pizza, you have to call to make sure it’s that time of the month when they have it. The PS&K (Polish sausage & kraut) sounds wrong, too, but it’s oh, so right.
There’s a touch of horseradish, the kraut is blanched so that it’s not vinegary or overpowering, and the meat is neighborhood-made sausage.
These are South Side masterpieces that I like way better than that over-hyped North Side deep dish stuff, which leaves you so full you feel like a snake that just ate a fat rabbit made out of gooey cheese and tomato sauce.
Great. Now I am burping, my weekend disappearing in gaseous form, much like the summer has, with August fast approaching.