Volunteers satiate public demand for Ukrainian eats

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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With the efficiency of an assembly line, a small group of volunteers have prepared approximately 6,750 cabbage rolls for the summer fair.

 

They’ve also prepared almost 11,000 perogies (best known by Ukrainians as either varenyky or pyrohy) and plan on cooking 400 pounds of kielbasa and enough borscht to fill a kiddie swim pool.

Calling out to the group of 25 or so volunteers hunkered down in front of cabbage roll ingredients at the Prince Albert Exhibition grounds on Monday, Veselka Prince Albert and District Ukrainian Heritage Club president Diane Bazowski asked whether any of them were born in the Ukraine.

After some joking and giggling among the good-natured volunteers she concluded that there were no Ukraine-born individuals in the group.

This also holds true for Bazowski, whose parents and grandmothers were born in Canada, but whose grandfathers were born in the Ukraine.

“We’re all Canadian, here, but we’re keeping our Ukrainian history going,” she summarized with a shrug.

Proud of their heritage, the group is adding a Ukrainian flare to next week’s summer fair, during which Ukrainian dishes will be sold en masse.

Particularly the bread, volunteer baker Ron Adamko said.

Cooked in a large outside clay oven on-site during the summer fair, as soon as the bread starts coming out, people begin lining up.

Able to cook up to 28 loaves at a time, Adamko said that they produce about 300 loaves per day.

Bakers heat the wood-fed clay oven to about 500 degrees -- a temperature controlled by how much they open the oven.

“It’s quite easy,” he said. “You just have to keep an eye on it.”

A burned batch would mean a disappointed long line of Ukrainian bread lovers, Bazowski said.

We’re all Canadian, here, but we’re keeping our Ukrainian history going. Diane Bazowski

It takes a special know-how to create traditional foods of any ethnicity, and with the Ukrainian dishes being prepared for next week’s fair it has everything to do with the special touches.

The cabbage rolls’ cabbage must be of a particular size and consistency, Bazowski said. Too tough and forks can’t cut it, and too mushy and it’ll fall apart.

Flavour is another concern.

“The leaves are just plain -- they have no flavour to them, so we do a little salting on them, and she comes around with sauce,” she said.

Traditionally, sauce is made with tomato soup, water and a little bit of oil.

The local group has added a secret ingredient. Be nice enough to a club member and they might tell you what it is.

Borscht is another specialty of the group.

Mainly beets, volunteers add carrots, onions and various other odds and ends to make a soup Bazowski proudly notes is well received at the summer fair.

“If you went to 10 Ukrainians and you had a bowl of their soup, each would be slightly different,” she said. “If somebody likes your soup one day, the next time you make it, it might taste a little bit different.

The local Ukrainian foods booth is one of many to be operational during the city’s 131st annual summer fair and exhibition, set to kickoff with a 7 p.m. parade on Monday.

The exhibition grounds and food vendors will open to the public on Tuesday through to Saturday. 

Organizations: Veselka Prince Albert and District Ukrainian Heritage Club

Geographic location: Ukraine, Canada

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