Fried onions ... and holiday thoughts
Many of our readers will probably remember the 1991 movie with the unusual title of "Fried Green Tomatoes." What brought the movie to mind was a recent experience with fried onions. Yes, fried onions. (This is not a typographical error, though these do occasionally slip into any publication...) Or more specifically, fried onions of the Ukrainian variety. Part of the story of "Fried Green Tomatoes" dealt with the friendships and bonds created between women. In the case of our Ukrainian fried onions, however, there was so much more at work besides bonding (though the women certainly did bond, and they had a lot of fun).
Perhaps we should stop right here to explain. The fried onions to which we are referring are those prepared on one night of the week to support the work of the varenyky-makers who come later in the week to make the filling for varenyky and then dexterously insert that filling into the varenyky dough. Thus, the fried onions are only one small portion of the large, and we do mean large, task at hand, considering the sheer numbers of varenyky produced by this crew of volunteers.
These fried onions, and the peeled potatoes, and the ultimately filled varenyky, are in many cases the proverbial foundation of our community life - the stuff upon which our churches and schools were built, upon which they continue to exist and flourish. Even today, those varenyky sales play a huge part in raising funds for our parishes, national homes, community organizations, etc.
Around these parts, the local parish has a Christmas bazaar, not unlike others across North America, which takes advance orders for traditional Ukrainian foods of the Christmas season. Though the varenyky and holubtsi are available throughout the year, the weeks in December are particularly busy, as the orders are particularly large. The orders come not only from parishioners but from locals who have been purchasing the products for years. In fact, many of them stop by the parish hall on Saturdays and Sundays during the year to purchase the varenyky and holubtsi made by the parish's dedicated and experienced team of volunteers. (When you have a craving for varenyky, nothing else will do!)
On "tsybulia night," as we quickly dubbed our encounter, the group consisted of a dentist who completed her dental studies in both Ukraine and the United States, a high-powered legal secretary, a designer, a grandmother and an editor. On other nights it was a lawyer, a teacher in training, several homemakers - well you get the picture. Everyone's involved. And it's not only women, mind you.
So, why are we writing about fried onions before Christmas? Well, since Christmas is the time to remember all the people who make a difference in our lives, it is worth remembering also all the community volunteers out there who make our Ukrainian "hromada" function. We refer to the varenyky makers, of course, but also to the countless other volunteers, ranging from youth counselors to the folks who collect admission at our community events, from those who man phone-a-thons to those who organize fund-raisers, and so on. Keep them in your thoughts, give them a well-deserved thank-you, and, whenever possible, give them a hand. There are so many little ways each of us can help our hromada. Remember: anyone can do fried onions...
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, December 14, 2003, No. 50, Vol. LXXI
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