In the Canadian town of Glendon, Northeast of Edmonton, Alberta, there is a “giant pierogi” (the Polish name for the Ukrainian vareniki), a half-moon dumpling 8,2 metres tall (27 feet).
They erected this tribute to a staple of the Ukrainian cuisine in 1993. It was constructed with fiberglass and metal frame.
The first design was without the fork. But a fork had to be added to the sculpture to help the people understand what that big white pillow was supposed to be.
Close to the sculpture there is the Pierogi Café. The only restaurant in the small town (approx. 500 inhabitants), specialised, of course, in Ukrainian dumplings.
The Giant Pierogi kept the small town on the map. Glendon was dying and the citizens had to invent something out of the ordinary to attract visitors. Fortunately, they achieved it. Today, this monument is the reason why Glendon is alive.
Pierogies (or vareniki) are dough dumplings filled with potato and cheese, boiled or fryed with abundance of butter and bacon. They are traditionally served as a main dish under myriad toppings like caramelized onions and sour cream. In Canada are also served sweet, filled with anything from blueberries to Saskatoon berries.
In Canada vareniki is an iconic food and you can buy a box of them from any grocer across the country. Canadians consider it a national food. This is not surprising: Canada has the third largest Ukrainian population in the world after Ukraine and Russia.
They were introduced in Canada Immigrants from Eastern Europe, arriving throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. In particular, Polish and Ukrainian families kept the traditions of making up them at home. The root of the word is Slavic and means “festival.”
Historically, pierogi appeared in Poland in the 13th century and legend says that St. Hyacinth (the patron saint of the pierogi) brought the recipe back from Kiev, Ukraine.
From another side, there is the story of the Venetian explorer Marco Polo, who brought dumplings to the West from China, the same century, during his famous travel along the Silk Road.
The first wave of Eastern European immigrants arrived between 1891 and 1914 with Canada’s encouragement to take prairies to farm. After the Second World War, the second wave of immigrants consolidated pierogi in the sidewalk of Canadian culinary delights.
The new Ukrainian and Polish Canadians started serving vareniki in restaurants or sellling them in shops. By the 1960s, pierogies were as commonplace in the Canadian grocery stores as frozen French fries, from coast to coast.