The story of Genesis opens with the protagonist (God) overflowing with love and creativity. Then the villain, in a devastating opening move, convinces the story’s love interest (mankind) that the protagonist does not truly love her, and that she – not he – should be the center of the story.
Now, as members of that gullible race, we and our children struggle to remember our proper and beloved place in the story. In fact, it is a precious thing to glimpse any story larger than our own.
My family recently enjoyed a delicious reminder in the form of a recipe. This recipe is for a traditional potato-stuffed pasta called pierogies. My wife’s great-grandmother brought it with her from Austria, carried in her mind as a sixteen-year-old girl who rode sitting in the bottom of an ocean liner.
Pierogies are a lot of work, so they are a family project. And in the mashing, mixing, rolling, cutting, stuffing, and boiling, a sense of belonging to a greater story is inevitable, along with conversations about great-grandma and even great-great grandma.
The best part? I started pierogie day in a state of sulks because I was out of ideas for nurturing our children’s imaginations. (Beyond reading more stories – not that there’s anything wrong with that.) It wasn’t until I got caught up in the project that I saw beyond the flour everywhere and realized what was happening.
So I’m not suggesting we need to invent special historical projects. Instead, I want to be more present in whatever we’re doing, and maybe catch more of these big-picture moments as they happen. Then I’ll just enjoy the heck out of them, because we’re not teaching a lesson, we’re building a belief about how the world works. If the joy is there, the kids will catch on. And maybe I will, too.
Photo by Julie Witmer
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S.D. Smith says
This is great, James! Thanks for calling me out of my self-inflicted blindness time and time again.
James Witmer says
Is that what I was doing? I guess that’s why we need to tell our stories. You’re very welcome. Thankful it helped.
Helena Sorensen says
I was just talking about this yesterday with my parents. I think, as Christian artists, we sometimes overlook large stories in favor of the largEST story. Of course the Gospel is the largest and most crucial, but children benefit from plain old large stories, too. My family was never very good about passing down recipes or heirlooms or even stories. It’s left me without much sense of my place in the Sorensen clan or even what that clan looks like. Making a family recipe together is such a wonderful way to introduce your children to a large story. Patricia Polacco’s books always make me feel sad and wistful in the same way that your post does. I want to have a Keeping Quilt and a Blessing Cup and a pierogi recipe, and so on. Those things are invaluable!
James Witmer says
Helena, I agree that the Christians I’ve known (including me, and not just Christian artists) sometimes undervalue smaller stories.
My side of our family is mostly oblivious to heritage, and I too have felt deep loneliness while reading Polacco. I find some comfort in thinking that, for most children, “when Grandpa was a boy” is as far back as they can imagine. In a couple decades, that will be a gift I can give.
James! This is beautiful. I’m so familiar with coming to meaningful realizations out of a “state of sulks.” Thanks for sharing your heart. Now, how about that recipe?
Julie @ Wife, Mother, Gardener says
Here you go, Gina!…
Great-Grandma Katz’s Austrian Pierogies
Pasta: 4c flour, 1 T salt, 2 eggs beaten, 1 c warm water, 3T shortening. Mix flour and salt, make a well in the center and then add the combined wet ingredients. Knead until smooth (8-10 min or do it in your mixer with dough hook).
Filling: Thick mashed potatoes mixed with cheddar cheese plus herb, your choice
Roll out thinly a 18″ portion of pasta on a floured surface. Cut into roughly 4″ squares. Place a small ball of filling in the center of each square. Dab a little water on edge of square, then seal pasta as a triangle over filling. Press gently with a fork around edge to seal, being careful not to puncture the pasta sack.
Place in boiling water, a few at a time, until they rise to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on tray. Refrigerate.
To serve, fry each pierogi in a pan with butter until lightly brown….Frying a few onions and apple slices with them makes them even better 🙂
James Witmer says
Thanks, Gina. Glad I’m not the only one. 🙂 …And glad that mercy can penetrate even my sulks!