by David Cecelski
Today I went to Saints Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Church in Cary in search of pierogi. I arrived at the little church’s holiday open house early, but the parking lot was already full and traffic was backed up down Piney Plains Road. A local newspaper had run a story on the church’s pierogi sale and I could already see a line of devotees of the little Slavic dumplings stretching out the church annex’s door.
As I rushed toward the church annex, I wondered if the church ladies had made pierogi just with the classic cheese and mashed potato filling. I love pierogi that way, so that would not have been a problem. But I was also anticipating a little variety, too: maybe ones stuffed with mushroom, cabbage or beef, or even my favorite, sauerkraut.
I was too late though. By the time that I reached the church annex, ten minutes after the open house began, the pierogi were all gone. The church ladies had just not anticipated the depth of the craving for pierogi in Cary, which is now home to large émigré populations of Eastern Europeans, or how much attention a newspaper story might bring to their pierogi. I could hear the moans of disappointed souls all around me.
The church’s guests seemed to come from all over the pierogi-loving world. The Cary congregation has roots in a branch of the Byzantine Church that comes from the Carpathian Mountain region, an area bordered by modern-day Ukraine, Hungary and Slovakia. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there were also pierogi seekers there today from Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and other parts of Eastern Europe. Some were clearly recent immigrants. Others, like me, were grandchildren of Eastern European immigrants. We were all seeking a dumpling that would remind us of our grandmothers’ kitchens.
All was not lost however. Even without pierogi, the open house was a delight. I watched St. Nicholas handing out gifts to children in the church’s playground. Volunteers were collecting coats and other warm clothes for those in need. And I enjoyed some delicious homemade cookies, seasoned with anise, and a cup of hot chocolate. The church was also selling some beautiful Byzantine icons.
Though pierogi-less, the ladies auxiliary’s members still had tins of Eastern European cookies for sale, as well as homemade German stollen. They were also taking orders for pickup next week. You could order baked goods for Christmas, including nut, poppy seed, and apricot rolls, cookies, and kolachke, a sweet yeast pastry much favored in Polish and Czech homes. They were even taking orders for pierogi, so there is hope for the future after all.
Saints Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Church is located at the corner of Tryon and Piney Plains Road in Cary. For more information about the annual Christmas open house, call (919) 851-9266 .