Do you know the stories from your parents’ lives? I was inspired by three sisters who interviewed their dad, as he lost the fight for his life in hospital. I realized there is so much I don’t know about what my parents’ lives were like before my brother and I came along.
The little I do know came from my grandparents. I was lucky enough to get to spend a few amazing summers visiting them in Yugoslavia while they were still with us. How I loved listening to their stories!
These are my paternal grandparents, Baka Ana and Dida Franjo Mihaljevic, around 1986 or so.
My paternal grandparents’ home was in the center of Zagreb, next to the main train station. I’d hang out outside watching trainloads of people pass by. The house was so close to the tracks I felt like I could high-five passengers as their limbs dangled out of the train windows.
Inside their home, I’d sit at the kitchen table while my grandma started the wood burning stove. It’s a dream of mine to have one of those and the time it takes to use one. My grandpa would pull up a chair and he’d poke fun at my grandma, non-stop. They were so full of joy and love, and the house filled with laughter. Although they no longer walk among us, my love for them has no end.
My maternal Grandparents house was on the Adriatic Coast. I had a sea view from my bedroom’s balcony and it truly was paradise. Baka Dragica was laid back and loved to laugh. She gave me the freedom to explore her town as I wished, which made for great growth for me. She loved to listen to music, and sing along as she busied herself in the house. I’d bring my awesome mixed (cassette) tapes, and she would ensure I had a player in my room so I could listen to them. Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills will forever remind me of that summer when I was 18.
When my grandma would visit Canada, I’d sleep in her bed and we’d stay up until the wee hours talking in the dark. She was a great storyteller and teacher, and I am so grateful for the many things I learned from her. I miss her terribly.
In order to learn about how my parents became the people they are today I decided to interview each of them. It’s going to take time to get it all down and I’m not exactly sure what I will do with it when I am done. But it feels good to have started and to initiate new potential from some interesting old stories.
My mom has always been a phenomenal culinary talent and she is passionate about it. We almost never ate in restaurants growing up, being spoiled by her incredible home-cooked meals. I’ll be sure to include some of her recipes on this blog.
First up is my Mom’s Pierogi recipe. It`s not Croatian, but we made it recently and it is too good not to share.
Makes about 40 (I double it so I can freeze a bunch)
2 Large Russet Potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 Tsp Olive Oil
1 Small Spanish Onion, finely diced
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed
1.5 oz. Cream Cheese
1.5 oz Cottage Cheese
1/2 tsp. Salt
Black Pepper to taste
- Add potatoes to a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender.
- In a frying pan brown onions in oil on med-low, adding garlic just before they are done.
- Using a ricer put the potatoes and all other ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine. Set aside to cool. I have an old antique ricer and shopped around to find the most similar thing, which I believe is this.
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, then make a well in the center.
Add egg, sour cream and water to the well and combine with a spoon.
Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 50 turns or until you get a smooth dough. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Take a third of the dough, keeping the rest covered, roll out to about 3 mm thick. Use a glass or other circle shape about 7-8 cm in diameter to cut out circles. We used a clean, empty can. Save the scraps to re-roll.
- Place about a Tablespoon of filling onto each circle, then fold in half and pinch tightly to close. We made some filled with peach jam. They are delicious with caramelized onions on top!
- Place pierogi`s in boiling, salted water about 6-8 at a time for about 3 minutes (if freezing) and 4 minutes (if eating now).
- If freezing, allow the boiled pierogi`s to cool on an oiled cookie sheet then into an oiled zip bag to freeze.
I serve these with full-fat Greek yogurt, bacon bits, and caramelized onions, seasoned with salt and pepper. The Pierogi`s can also be fried slightly after boiling to crisp up the dough a little.