Friday, August 28, 2009

BLOG – August 28th - Sto Lat!

Sto Lat! – It’s that time again!

Luckily birthdays come every year and then quietly slip away. I celebrate this special occurrence with a friend in Polish culture, my birthday brother – Ted “Tadek” Zdybał . Those who believe in zodiac qualities may find it interesting that both of us, although born on different years share an extraordinarily similar background, history, desire, passion, and mindset.

We were both born on August 28th; both our parents were born in southern Poland: Ted’s – Górale; mine – Rzeszowiacy.

We met in Poland at the Course for Instructors in Lublin and immediately connected. We were in different years of study, but the spark of similar interests was ignited and the dialogue began.

We both came from classical dance training –Ted was an apprentice and student with National Ballet of Canada, later graduating from it's teacher's training program; and I realized my dreams as a member of the Boston Ballet.

I created my own Polish choreography with the Lublin Polish Song and Dance Ensemble, which I had founded; while Ted was a member and choreographer for Lechowia in Toronto. Ted has since been associated with numerous groups as choreographer - Kujawiacy (Kitchener, Ontario), artistic director and choreographer of Krakowiak of Boston , and currently since 1996, as the artistic director and choreographer of Toronto's Biały Orzeł Ensemble.

I had wanted to dance with Mazowsze – attended rehearsals and company class and began the discussion of taking residence with the company. Due to the government rules regarding this state dance company during the Communist era, I was denied entrance to company because I was not a Polish citizen and was not married to a Polish citizen. Ted had a similar desire to dance with Śląsk and realized that dream when Poland became a democratic nation.

Our interest in folk dance extended beyond Polish forms and we both danced with international folk ensembles - Ted professionally with The International Folk Danstheater in Amsterdam. We also had an interest in Polish dance beyond the known entities – we devoured the obscure dances and cultures of sub-regions and the traditional and seasonal customs (obrzędy). We thought alike on many subjects and it was uncanny when we would meet and discuss that we choose similar obscure costumes and repertoire for our presentations.

This, of course, gave us a palate of discussion during my visits to Toronto, when on a performance tour or to work with a musical theater project. We would stay up until the next morning “drunk” on the talk of folklore.

My direction shifted to Musical Theater and Broadway, while always keeping the Polish dance involvement alive; Ted stayed completely on the folk dance path.

We think alike and when we don’t, we fed off of each others knowledge and interests. We support each other – I traveled to Massachusetts to support Ted’s debut as artistic director of the Krakowiak Dancers and to Toronto to celebrate his achievements at Biały Orzeł ’s 40th anniversary; and Ted traveled to Buffalo to see me perform during my last national tour of Fiddler on the Roof.

I was treated with courtesy, honor, and respect when I visited one of Biały Orzeł’s rehearsals and extended my words of praise and encouragement to the company.

It has been a period of time since we met, but calls and e-mails have filled part of that void. In the world of Polish dance in America, where often konkurencja (competiveness) is matched with zazdrość (envy/jealousy), and petty politics, it is unique that we celebrate our motives, achievements and passion for folklore.

Years have past, yet our paths cross periodically and like true connected friends, we pick up where we left off, without any forced sentiments.

I wish Ted was closer to New York City, so we could share more than fleeting folklore encounters, and perhaps join forces in our endeavors.

Happy Birthday! – Sto Lat! – May you live 100 years!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

PIEROGI SERIES: Pierogi at the Fair – Millie’s Pierogi Delivers!

Milie's Pierogi - Anna Lopuk ("Millie")

Part of a continuing series on Pierogi

Pierogi at the Fair
Millie’s Pierogi Delivers!

by Staś Kmieć (reprinted from Polish American Journal - August 2009)

It was a balmy August Saturday last year when I had the urge to visit the Dutchess County Fair in upstate New York. I had been there a few years prior and had the delight to see Millie’s Pierogi prominently displayed among the many food vendors and country fair offerings. I coaxed my friend Lee to venture out with me and along the way we were stuck for a lengthy time in the fair traffic. Was the fuss to get there worth it? Would Millie be there again or would it be a day of fried dough and farm animal prize winners?

Just beyond the entrance gates and around the corner I saw the rotating signature red-and-white sign with Poland’s crowned eagle. Millie was there! With an appetite, I went over to the counter manned by red and white capped and shirted attendants, and made my order of three samplings: farmer’s cheese, kapusta/cabbage and prune. Each one with a different dough consistency due to the filling; each one delicious!

My Uncle John in Sparta, NJ initially told me about Millie’s Pierogi, which he ordered so he could keep a proper supply in the freezer at all times.

I had experienced many a pieróg at fairs, but never had they tasted like Millie’s. This was the real thing - delicate dough with delightful, tasty fillings! Part of the secret of Millie's pierogi is that they are entirely hand-pinched; this enables thinner dough, unlike machine-made products. Upon my return past the booth, I ordered another round, but this time a double order and an addition of potato and cheese with kiełbasa bits to the mix.

I asked if “Millie” was there and I was introduced to a cheerful woman. I would later find out that this was the matriarch Anna (Tauscher) Lopuk. Everyone seems to claim to “Millie” at the booth, even the men.

There was a Millie originally, but she owned a different establishment. She sold it when her son died, and there were a couple of owners before the Lopuks bought it in 1976. Daughter Ann was in college and when her parents told her of their purchase she couldn’t understand the logic, since the joint was known more for pizza than pierogi. Her father, Walter Lopuk said, "because it can't go anywhere but up!"

The first year was a real struggle for the couple. Anna said that “it was lots of long days and nights and hard work,” but that determination and willingness to commit the time and energy paid off. Today, Millie’s more than quadrupled the number of stores that they deliver to – the size of the physical plant, and has initiated a successful mail order and concession aspect to the business. Their visits to festivals and fairs allow them to meet the public and put a personal face to the brand name.

So where did this family recipe derive from? Walter Lopuk was no stranger to homemade pierogi. His mother came from Poland, and his father from Russia. Living in the predominantly Polish area of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, even the German-born Anna knew all about pierogi, or so she thought.

Trying to impress her new Polish mother-in-law, she attempted to make pierogi for her husband, and ended up in tears, with a mess all over the kitchen. "I'm never going to try to make another pieróg,” she told him. Little did she know?

Anna fully understands the frustration of mail order customers who try to replicate their cherished family recipe. She considers it an honor to have their brand be considered close enough to a relative's to stand in its place.

As a married couple, the Lopuks had a background in the food industry, having run two 24-hour diners for 25 years. After Urban Renewal swept through downtown Chicopee Falls they turned toward a pierogi business.

At the beginning, Millie's consisted of a small restaurant, and a delivery truck held together with baling wire and prayers. They delivered to about 50 local supermarkets, employing a few pinchers, a couple of waitresses, and a driver. It was a family affair with Dad doing the cooking in the diner, Mom – the bookwork, brother Gary handling the deliveries and the preparation of the cabbage filling, and daughter Ann – waitressing, delivering, and pinching pierogi.

With patience and perseverance, growth came steadily as they expanded into the farther reaches of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and then parts of Rhode Island, swelling the number of stores serviced to over 200. They purchased a concession trailer and made the rounds to the local fairs. They have now crossed the ethnic barrier, as people of all nationalities have been introduced to and enjoy pierogi.

Family members have departed and there have been new additions such as Ann’s “Polish working” Irish husband.

What are Millie’s (I mean Anna’s) favorite pierogi? Farmer's cheese with a little sugar sprinkled on top.

Their upcoming busy schedule consists of The Dutchess County Fair, Aug. 25-30, (Rhinebeck, NY); and The Big E, Sept 18 - Oct. 4 (West Springfield MA).

Visit the Millie’s concession stand, sample the delicious pierogi, and say hello to “Millie!”

For orders and additional information:

Milie's Pierogi - A Family Affair

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

POPULAR CULTURE: Miss Poland Competes for "Miss Universe" Title

Angelika Jakubowska – Miss Poland (Miss Polonia) will represent her nation at this year’s Miss Universe pageant to be held on Sunday, August 23 at 9:00 pm.

She hails from Lubań, (southwestern Śląsk region), is 20 years old, stands 5′9,” and is fluent in English and German.

Despite all the beautiful women sent to the pageant, Poland amazingly has yet to win the Miss Universe crown. They made the cut in 1958, 1959, and 1989 editions of the pageant. Will Angelika offer hope for Poland this year?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

EDITORIAL: Tell Universal and its Corporate Partners to Jump off a Cliff

Movie Calls Polish People Dumb Boycott All Universal Movies, Resort
by Mark Kohan, Editor - Polish American Journal

Universal Studios has released new comedy, “Land of the Lost.” In it, Will Ferrell, who plays a nerdy professor Rick Marshall, explains the T-Rex dinosaur is stupid:

“Forget the Polish, it’s the tyrannosaurs that are the real dummies.”

Universal, by the way, calls this movie “a family comedy.”

Before “Land of the Lost” came out, reviewer Sheila Roberts of asked Ferrell if he thought the insult would get the attention of the Polish community. His response: “I would be flattered if there was. Yeah. I know, it’s so funny.”

He said the reference to Poles through Rick Marshall (his role in the movie) helped to define his character’s “nerdy mind.”

Sure, we understand that Ferrell was only trying to label his character as an idiot, but he could have refused to say the line. Do you think he would have said “Forget the Jews,” or “Forget the Blacks”? The answer: no. Why?: because Hollywood is afraid of backlash, which means money out of its pockets. So why does it pick on the Poles? The answer is obvious: Poles accept these insults as status quo. We are easy targets because we forgive and forget too easily. Well, if you want your grandchildren – who more than likely did not grow up putting up with Polish jokes – to think “Polish” equals “stupid,” then jump to the next story.

“Land of the Lost,” was directed by Brad Silberling, and written by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas. It is a Universal Pictures release. Universal is owned by General Electric, which also owns NBC television. If you were planning a vacation to any one the Universal Studio resorts, we urge you to change your plans. Universals corporate partners include: American Express, Arrowhead Water, Coca-Cola, GE Money, Minute Maid, Powerade, and Xerox. Until Universal drops this line from the movie, do not support these companies. If you have the time, write to them and let them know why.

Letters of protest can be written to: Jeff Zucker, President and CEO, Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608-1002. Phone: (818) 777-1000. E-mail: Keep your letters short and to the point. Do not weigh them down defending our heritage. We don’t have to defend it to anyone, least of all Zucker and Universal.

Most critics are panning the movie and called Ferrell’s performance “uninspired.” That’s little consolation now that it has been released. Your letters and boycott, however, will make GE, Universal and others in Hollywood reconsider whether such defamation is worth the cheap laugh.