Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Family Tableau

Family Life - Home Cooking

I wonder how many families have foods that are a bit unique to their family? I am thinking of foods that are quite possibly ethnic in origin that might not be so familiar to your friend's backgrounds. They are foods that might not seem unusual if you live in a community where your parents and grandparents -- uncles, aunts, cousins, and of course siblings -- grew up in. But if you no longer live in the lands of your parents... these dishes might be out of the ordinary.

(image to above right from Mennonite girls can cook)

For some of you there might be two completely separate sets of cuisine -- one from each parent's family -- or only one if your parents come from the same culture.

I come from in some ways three backgrounds. One is the fairly common generic Canadian-Average American one of bacon & eggs, pot roasts, fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, and that sort of thing. The other two are a bit more exotic though not Earth shattering.

Mom's parents originate from Norway and a few tastes have entered my culinary vocabulary from there -- though mostly it was diluted by way of New York and Alberta. There were a few things that basically only came out at Christmas time like Fattigman Bakkels or Cookies (image to left - image from which are deep fried and dusted with sugar. There also were cheeses and other foods that normally weren't bought or served except for during the holidays.

Dad came from a Mennonite community in Southern Manitoba that had come to North America around 1875 and hold cohesively as a community even today. There are many dishes I remember from our visits to family there which we have taken out here to the West Coast of Canada. Among many others is a favourite of my Sister's and mine, "Wareneki" or "Vareneki" -- in particular "Blueberry Wareneki".

Wareneki are one of those foods that sort of turn up all over the place in one version or another. I find they are different from perogis though some consider them the same. I think some would consider them a stuffed noodle or liken them to ravioli I guess. Anyhow the translation of wareneki I have seen is "fruit pocket" though I wonder if simply "pocket" or "dough pocket" might be more true?

Basically you make a dough and roll it out, then you cut out circles and put the fruit in the centre with a bit of sugar and press the edges together. You carefully put the sealed pockets into boiling water to cook and then serve with a cream sauce. Now my Grandma and relatives tend to make squares and fold the corners in so that the points meet in the center giving a squarish wareneki rather than the more crescent shaped ones shown in the pictures I am including, but I am sure they taste the same... I think the more square ones might hold a bit more of the sweet fruit filling.

(image to above right from Mennonite girls can cook)

Now the two pictures from "Mennonite girls can cook" show cottage cheese wareneki or "Glums Wareneki" rather than the blueberry wareneki, but they are fairy illustrative. Some people also make saurkraut wareneki, but I think they are spoil sports. I guess I grew up with the treat of blueberry wareneki from freshly picked blueberries while other folk might remember other fruits more.

(images above to left and right from

To me though blueberry wareneki were like eating dessert for dinner!

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~ Darrell

(I have also posted this on my Xanga site.)


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