I just returned from pierogi day. Every year since my husband can remember, there is one day, always between Thanksgiving and Christmas where every family member--and anyone else they can find--is herded into the kitchen and held hostage for an entire day. You are assigned a job based on your skill set. There are no volunteers, you simply do as you are told.
My mother-in-law has excellent administrative skills, multi-tasks like crazy, and knows the secret recipe. She, therefore, was assigned to dough maker/roller when she was 12. She cracks 8 (I think) eggs and mixes that with butter, flour, water, potatoes, salt, ?, ? in some special order in the pierogi-only Rubbermaid container. She works it, she kneads it, she rolls it on the pierogi-only cutting board. The dough is too fat, so she rolls it again. Then she cuts thin little circles out with a cookie cutter and transfers them to a cookie sheet on the table in front of the pinchers. For years now she has been trying to get out of her job because, well, while being sore the next day was a pain when she was younger, being sore for the next three days and hopped-up on Advil is not her idea of fun. But, as we said, there are no volunteers.
Then there's the cooker, that's my husband, Matt. The cooker--note, not the "chef"--is responsible for coming to the pinchers' table and picking up the pinched pierogi. From there he transfers the pierogi into boiling water and watches for them to float, when they have come to the top he scoops them out and rinses them in cold water. He then brings them to the packer (Aunt Kiki) and pours them into her bowl of butter. He must also have a stick of butter always melting to refill the packer's supply and extra kettles of water boiling to change the water when necessary. As if this is not enough for one person to do, especially a non-multi-tasker, whenever the cooker is Matt, he is also forced to be the runner.
Here's a snapshot of what we, as pinchers, overhear. Impatiently someone orders, "Matthew, the Saran Wrap, my fingers are covered in butter." Urgently someone yells, "Matthew, the telephone. Your hands are clean." Accusingly, "Focus, Matthew! How long have the pierogi been in the water?" Eagerly, "Matthew, the presents please; there's a lull." I think you get the idea. He takes a lot of heat for his difficult job as cooker added to his admittedly bad case of absent-mindedness and multiplied by his job as general lackey to the packer, pinchers, and roller. Sometimes I feel bad for him. But I know he just couldn't cut it as a pincher.
Pinching isn't difficult work, but it does require an attention to detail and the crucial ability of either not talking or talking while working. If Stephen is on "parole" for his slack production on account of talking, there's no way Matt could make it. The beautiful thing about pinching is that you get to sit the whole time. Mom puts the circles of dough in front of us, we pinch them, and then people--okay, Matt--takes them from our table to the stove. We stretch the little circles out like mini pizzas, put the filling in the center, and pull the edges together. Here comes the skill: we pinch. The thumb and forefinger carefully smush the edges together, making sure that no cabbage or potato has escaped. After we pinch the pierogi, we are forced to painstakingly add a decorative edge (compliments of Sarah) to identify the different kinds.
They are whisked away at odd intervals punctuated by "Matthew!" to be boiled and then packed in butter until it is time to eat them. Prior to eating, they are removed from the butter packaging and fried in, yes, butter. Ummm, ummm, delicious.
Personally, I'm really glad that my skill set recommended me for the involuntary job of pincher. Poor Matthew.