Nov. 14, 2006 - Issue #578: Out of Gas
Perogies are a girl’s best friend
My Cossack friends had the best of everything: great food, loving babas that made the great food, two Christmases, and time off from work to help with the harvest. They did have names that were impossibly difficult to pronounce, but otherwise they swam in a sour cream vat of good fortune.
When all of the crops were in, the potatoes dug and the beets pickled, rural communities had reason to celebrate. Amazing fall suppers were put on in virtually every church basement across the Prairies. Last week, I popped in to Uncle Ed’s for a plate of perogies, cabbage rolls and sausage, and a gastronomic stroll down memory lane.
Uncle Ed’s, so named in reference to Ed Stawnichy of Mundare Sausage fame, has recently moved to its new location on 118 Avenue. What was once a small, drop-in diner is now a 16-table restaurant and deli located in the heart of Beverly.
I entered through the front doors shared by both the restaurant and deli. To the right were massive displays of kielbasa, holubsti and pyrizhky for sale to anyone who wanted to stock the cupboards at home. Alongside the fresh and frozen delights were jars of mustard, homemade jams and just about anything you could think of pickling.
To the left was the restaurant, where I was promptly seated at a table along the south-facing window. Two thirds of the tables were already occupied, mostly by people who appeared to know a good bowl of borscht when they saw one. High ceilings and dark wood floors made for a clamorous room, and half a dozen busy servers added to the fervour.
The busy server assigned to my section appeared with a glass of water and a menu shortly after I sat down. Glancing through the copious choices, I decided to order from the specials board prominently displayed near the entryway. I started with a glass of chocolate milk ($2.00) and a cup of Baba Stawnichy’s tomato soup ($2.50). The lunch special was their most popular combo, the Number One with at least two of everything ($8.55). I could have gone with a half order but, as my server pointed out, Ukrainian food makes good leftovers. The soup was ladled up and brought out within moments. It was thick and hearty with chunks of potato, bits of onion, pureed carrots and tomatoes, thickened with whipping cream. I added a bit of pepper, closed my eyes and slurped a spoonful into my mouth. It was like being in my own grandmother’s kitchen, after a day of pulling weeds in her garden; I smiled in spite of myself.
I hadn’t yet finished the soup when my enormous combo plate arrived. I stared in awe at a five-inch length of grilled kielbasa (garlic sausage), four pyrohy (perogies) smothered in onions and bacon bits, four holubsti (cabbage rolls) topped with sautéed onions, two nalysnyky (crêpes) and two pyrizhky (buns), covered in a creamy dill sauce.
I dove in and tried one of the perogies first. It was slathered in butter and onions, and as I bit into the cheddar and potato dumpling I was transported to another place. I tried a bite of the cottage cheese-filled crepe, after assuring that it had a coating of cream: yum. The cottage cheese was the dry sort, a farmer cheese and thoroughly melted within the soft thin pancake.
I moved on to the famed Mundare garlic sausage and found it succulent and full of spicy flavour. Every bite was bursting with garlic, taking me back to frigid afternoons spent ice fishing, beer drinking and sausage grilling in Manitoba’s winter triathlon.
I popped half a sweet cabbage roll into my mouth then returned to the perogies to start the series over again. Despite my original reservations regarding the quantity, when I finally gave up there were no leftovers to speak of. The cabbage rolls were a bit bland, but everything else was fantastic.
I sat back and read from my book for a few moments, allowing the feast to settle while enjoying the sounds and aromas from the nearby kitchen. It wasn’t exactly a fall supper—more of a quick autumn lunch for under $15 plus tip—but it would certainly satisfy my cravings for home-cooked Ukrainian food for another season. V
Mon - Sat to 7 pm
4824 - 118 Avenue
More info about Uncle Ed’s →
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