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Grandma Boos and Her Perogy Mission

As I write this, I have just finished a dinner of perogies, cabbage rolls and kielbasa - a traditional meal in this part of the world given the large multi-generational eastern European population that makes up much of Western Canada, and it was fantastic. Comfort food of the highest order.

Earlier in the day we all pitched in and made two very large batches of perogies to freeze for dinners down the road.  The recipe we use to make perogies is one that Grandma Eveline left to the family and we have made countless times over the years, and in doing so, when making the perogies, Grandma is called back to us for a visit, if only for a short time, and sadly, if only but a memory - however I will take anything I can get.

She was no softy by any measure. She would tell you to suck it up and move on from your problem, don't dwell on the past since you can't change it and don't screw up again - learn from your experience. I heard all of them.

No matter the situation she always presented a tough veneer to the outside world or at least she tried to.  Her kindness did come through however and was shown to many people that came to her door, hat in hand, during a personal life crisis whether self-made or forced upon them, and she always had a bed, a meal, and a ton of advice for them. Her advice was dispensed whether you wanted it or not, agreed with it or not, or whether you liked it or not.

In my eyes she did not age, she didn't grow old in the young mans eyes - Superheros don't age.  She was eternal, immortal and bulletproof. For many of her grandchildren she was a tough Superhero, and now, even in my 50's, she still remains my Superhero, she always will.

One day during a telephone call with her I was suddenly struck by the fact she was growing old, she was not immortal, she was aging and beginning to suffer the debilitation's of old age. She was the one asking for help not offering it. I was crushed, my Superhero was weakening. When I explained the conversation to Susan who was listening to my side of the conversation as she sat beside me she too was crushed. We both cried.

Time wore on and as she grew older she became weaker and in need of care, it was because of her physical vulnerability that she moved to a care home leaving behind her few remaining possessions that were given to many of us, of which I received her cookbook, a few pictures, a box of notes and THE MIRROR. Not any ordinary mirror, but THE MIRROR that hung on the wall of her home forever. Now it is in my home and has been for years.

We lived a long distance away from her and did not see her as often as I would have liked, but life does interfere with desires; the last time I saw her she was not in good spirits or in good health and saying goodbye was the hardest thing to do. It turns out it was my last goodbye to her.

When the telephone rang one day it was my dad calling to tell me that Grandma had passed away; it was devastating for me and my family. It turns out that she was a Superhero not only to my wife and me, but the children too, our Superhero was gone.

Over the years since her passing I take every opportunity to talk about her with anyone that will listen to me ramble on.  There are many stories to share too, one of which I wrote about previously and some of which I will write about in future blog postings.  Her perogies are reason enough to ramble on and on and on and on about and I will do just that.

After she retired and moved to Kelowna she would occasionally travel throughout BC and Alberta to visit with friends and relatives, and during her travels I was often times on the agenda.  Her preferred mode of transportation during those times was driving her red Chevrolet Camaro, and I mean she really drove it. REALLY DROVE IT!!! She did like to drive fast and did all the time.

The cops hated it when she drove fast and did stop to tell her so from time to time, but often times when they stopped her and looked at her as they stood at her car window, they just asked the kindly old woman in front of them to slow down, no ticket was issued.  With a nod and a thank you Grandma took off and once clear of the pesky cop, entered warp speed once again. She had places to go and people to see and you can't get there driving like an old woman she would tell you.

That Camaro would pull up in front of my house and we would unload the contents of her car and set up for a visit of a week or so. The contents of her luggage ushered in a frenzy of perogy making, the likes of which were only seen when a gaggle of Baba's got together to make perogies for a big sale at the local Ukrainian church.

Once settled-in she would go shopping and come back with bags of flour, eggs, cheese, potatoes and the like, all necessary ingredients to the perogy making process. Once the larder was stocked to her satisfaction the perogy making began.  After a couple of days there would be a hundred dozen perogies in the freezer, yes, a hundred dozen, enough for a year or so of fine dining. She would then move on to her next stop leaving us with her perogy memory and a full freezer. Awesome...

She was French Canadian and perogies are not a French Canadian staple so I assume she learned how to make them to keep her husband well fed since he was a man of German heritage and loved a good dumpling. Who she learned the perogy making art from I don't know, but she mastered the hell out of it.

She embraced technology in the perogy making process to help speed it up and in doing so she utilized an Italian pasta roller, which I now have in my kitchen, to roll out the dough and to seal the dumplings she had a "Perogy Zipper" which looks similar to a lid from a spray can - kind of. I also have a couple of perogy zippers that she gave me as she often times left them behind when she visited people, we used one this past weekend in fact.

I do remember a time when she showed up at my door when I was living back in Edmonton during the early 80's recession. My wife and I were there trying to survive the recession having left BC in debt and with collection agents chasing us. Funny how the more things change the more they stay the same since I am now back in Prince George, broke, in debt and only one missed paycheque away from having the collection agents calling me again.

Anyway, being as broke as we were, our dinner menus were meagre at best, usually involving spaghetti, macaroni, or hamburger. My Aunty Lori (you do remember the Popsicle stick aunty don't you?) would invite us over to feed us from time to time when she noticed the rickets setting in or a gaunt pallor overtaking us, but for the most part we just ate hamburger and pasta. Then one day that lovely Camaro came screeching to a halt in front of our duplex, perogy making tools inside it and the perogy maker driving it. We hit the mother-lode.

After staying with us for a week or so she left us with a full freezer of perogies and that freezer took care of us for many months. It was fine dining, as perogies are the physical manifestation of fine art embodied in food. They really are.

Over the years she would show up and make batches of perogies for us regardless of my financial standing and they were always welcome. All of my family love perogies and they will tell you Grandma Eveline's perogies were the best, bar none. When we make them they are delicious too, but like Memere's cookies they do lack that certain something when not made by the Grandma. But they are delicious.

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