For somebody with Polish blood in her veins, this should have been the easiest gig ever.
Judge a pierogi competition?
Piece of cake.
In our house, we make well over 100 pierogi for Christmas alone. I learned how to roll the dough and stuff it with filling at the hands of my grandmother, Stanislawa, known as Estelle – her husband, my grandfather Aloysius, ran a well-known tavern on the city’s East Side.
So, really, pierogi deliberation seemed like no big lift.
Not so fast. The sixth annual “Buffalo’s Best Pierogi” competition, held recently at the Dozynki festival at Corpus Christi Catholic Church on Clark Street, proved more challenging than expected.
One of a small group of judges, I sat at a table with other hungry folks, plastic forks poised, water bottles at the ready.
Then the plates began to arrive.
Across the table, State Sen. Tim Kennedy – who admitted to buying frozen pierogi, which was actually rather brave considering the setting – sampled and marked a ballot, as did a former winner of this contest, who said the tenderness of the dough was key.
Judging with me was my husband, a fellow News reporter who also has Polish-American ancestors. (Would he maintain that nothing, but nothing, could measure up to his wife’s homemade version? I wondered.)
“Mmmm,” he said, biting into the first entry, a bologna-and-onion-stuffed pocket topped with cheese.
I knew I was in trouble. This was going to be difficult.
Later on, verification came from Chris Byrd, organizer of the contest, which got started in 2007 and this year included 24 entrants.
Byrd told me that weighing the merits of pierogi is not easy to do – especially when you are raised on a certain type that a grandmother or beloved aunt made.
“Everybody’s grandma’s recipe is the best, you know?” Byrd joked.
That’s part of the reason why the contest is divided into four categories: traditional, nontraditional, dessert and commercial.
Prize winners received “gold” rolling pins, certificates and harvest beer.
As it turns out, it is very hard to decide whether a lobster-filled pierogi is better than one made to call up memories of Polish white borscht, with flavors of sausage and chopped hard-cooked egg.
Next year, if you want to enter, applications will be taken beginning in June, said Byrd. See the Corpus Christi website for more information (www.corpuschristibuffalo.org.)