A Little Bit of “Old Country” in Virginia

When I was growing up in Pittsburgh decades ago, we referred to Europe as the “old country” where my grandparents came from, and whose food specialities included pirohi (pierogis for some), halupki, kolbasi, halushki, etc. We always had these foods at family gatherings, weddings & funerals, church events, and of course, regular family meals intermixed with modern American food.

At my parish here in Annandale, Virginia — Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church — we try to keep these traditions at least once a year for ourselves and others in the neighborhood, namely the Washington Metropolitan area. We host an annual Slavic-American Festival on the Sunday after Labor Day and a few thousand people show up. We have all the ethnic foods, as well as a beer truck on the grounds (to keep the supply going!), bingo all day long, rides for the kids, and even a LIVE polka band that we import from Pennsylvania — which has become the “old country” for us!

Having to feed so many, we try to make as much of the food as we can ourselves with many working sessions beforehand. But alas, we have to import the several thousand pirohi that we need from a parish in Pennsylvania that is happy to make the money. Sorry Mrs. T’s!

Finally, we also import the source of my specialty, the freshly made batter for homemade potato pancakes! Every year I drive up to Kingston, PA (outside of Wilkes-Bare) and pick up the batter from Mr. P’s Potato Pancake shop. He has trucks and grilles that travel all around NE Pennsylvania for various festivals, but Virginia is too far for him to come.

I run the potato pancake stand every year now, after the previous chairman had to retire due to health and age. He has “blessed” my running of his operation, and this past weekend my crew made about 2400 pancakes from 12 buckets of batter. We ran out of batter about 5:30 pm having started cooking non-stop at 10:00 am!

At least a dozen or so folks stopped by and said “I come to this festival just for your potato pancakes” and so another successful year has past, and a small contribution has been made to our church building fund.

If you will be in the Washington DC area, in early September next year, please stop by the festival.  I think you will enjoy the food, festivities and fellowship — and terrific potato pancakes.