Guest post: Vegan Pierogie Night in Pittsburgh! »
Pittsburgh is a pierogi town. Pittsburghers seriously love sports, and not only are pierogies for sale at all sporting events, but at home Pirates games, people dressed as pierogies race each other around PNC Park. One might wonder whether pirates weren’t an exciting enough mascot; well, sure, but it’s Pittsburgh, dammit, and the people of Pittsburgh are proud of their Eastern European foodstuffs! Plus, the sandwich-with-french-fries-and-coleslaw-on-it costume is pretty confusing, and an Andy Warhol race just didn’t have the same mass appeal.
Sadly, though, most places stuff their pierogies full of non-vegan ingredients. We’re talking cheese, meat, lots of butter. Some places even put eggs in the dough. But hope is not lost for the vegan who wants to eat an enormous amount of authentic dough pockets stuffed with (preferably) greasy goodies like any real Pittsburgher!
Tomasz Skowronski has been holding Vegan Pierogie Night for over two years, using mostly word of mouth to spread the joy of vegan pierogies to Pittsburgh’s herbivores and omnivores alike. “People think that the pierogie recipe is some sacred thing, but that’s the biggest misstep,” he says. “A pierogie is just supposed to be chewy and simple. You don’t need sour cream or fake things. The less artificial stuff you put into it, the better.”
Tomasz preps and serves.
This more-or-less monthly event has been a true labor of love for him. “At first, we pressed all the pierogies by hand. That’s possible to do, but eventually your hands just wither and you do a lot of crying, so now we use hand presses.” As the event grew in popularity, his partner Kate Lasky signed on to split the enormous amount of cooking and prep, while helpful friends volunteer the day of, frying and flipping and running around. “I think they just appreciate what we’ve got going on and they want to be involved in it,” says Kate. “And they don’t mind us bossing them around for three hours.”
Kate works in the kitchen while Tomasz serves in front.
With fillings like potato and red bell pepper coulis with sauerkraut and mushroom, or spicy carrot with stewed cabbage and cooked Jonathan apples, it’s no surprise that the line for food goes out the door, but Tomasz and Kate are committed to keeping it all-you-can-eat. Vegan Pierogie Night is a social event, where you get some food, sit and eat and talk, then go get some more food and do it again, rather than a pop-up kitchen or food truck. And pierogies are not the only thing served; there is always a second, unrelated food. Past pierogie nights have paired the Pittsburgh classic with such unlikely plate-mates as tacos, falafel, Korean barbecue, pizza, sushi, and banh mi.
Pierogies, dipping sauces, and tacos from the Pierogies vs. Tacos night held in December 2012.
Although Tomasz and Kate love to eat at many ethnic restaurants in Pittsburgh, they do feel the lack of strictly vegan places. “It’s so easy to buy vegan food for yourself at the grocery stores in the states now, so we’re kind of done with the whole ‘one vegan option’ thing,” says Tomasz. He and Kate have plans in the (slow) works to open up what sounds like would instantly be Pittsburgh’s most rad place if it ever came to be, which it totally should. “It’d be like, a Pan-Eastern European place that always plays Depeche Mode and has a late-night drunk menu. And a bar! With disco and darkwave.”
The next event happens on Saturday, March 23, from 6 to 9 p.m. It’s at the Stephen Foster Community Center, 286 Main St., in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. This time around, it’s Pierogies vs. Sushi, and entry costs $10. Details on Facebook!
Melissa Balick is a blogger originally from Pennsylvania who now lives in San Francisco. She writes about vegan cooking, type 1 diabetes, and preserving marine biodiversity on her blog, Food and Loathing. You can also follow her on Twitter if you have a short attention span.