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She's "Ma" to her family, but in the weeks leading up to Easter, Dorothy Malczewski of Depew goes into the lamb-making business. She's overseen the creation of thousands upon thousands of butter lambs since she turned out her first molded lamb 43 years ago. She sells them at Ma Malczewski's stand at the Broadway Market. Her son, Jimmy, operates the larger Malczewski poultry stand year-round.

How did you get started making butter lambs?

My father had a small wooden mold of a lamb that he'd brought from Poland. My children thought it was a toy! Another company, Buffalo Butter, was making butter lambs at the time. The Buffalo Butter lambs were nice, but they were small. I thought, this gives me an idea to make some more attractive lambs. I thought there must be a different way to make prettier ones, not only for our Polish people, but to let all of us enjoy a lamb on the table at Easter. You see Jesus on the cross and what is by his foot? A lamb.

Did you design all these different sizes and types at once?

I went to an engineer, and I asked how to make a bigger size butter lamb. So then we had the 2-ounce and the 4-ounce. Two years later, people were asking for bigger ones, so I went into the 4-ounce and the 6-ounce. Then bigger companies started calling me -- they said they would like bigger ones to give to their employees. So we made 1-pound ones and 3-pound ones. But even those weren't big enough. So Dorothy is making a cake, and you see these cakes in different shapes? So I decided to make a lamb like that.

And do you put the fleece curls on with a pastry bag?

(Laughing) Oh, I'm not going to give that out!

They seem to have expressions on their faces. And some of them face front and some face to the side, and they have different color ribbons.

Yes, each one is different. The eyes are peppercorns. I have a cousin who is a priest and he blesses the first ones, so these are all blessed. The ones with the red ribbons are the originals -- the color red signifies the blood of Christ when they hung him on the cross. The "Alleluia" flag says Christ is the risen son and the flag stands for victory over death. The lamb is part of your grace at the table. The dinner table wouldn't look right without a lamb.

Some of the lambs have lavender ribbons and flags.

Yes. One year I had a roll of ribbon in the house that was orchid, and I love the color orchid. That's not the original, but I love the color. A priest came by the stand one year and asked me about the color, and I said, "Well, you wear purple vestments in Lent!" It's a nice spring color, and we made them for people to be satisfied. People of every religion, not just Catholics, like to have a butter lamb. Even ministers have them on their tables. And that's the whole story.

e-mail: aneville@buffnews.com