I can't say I grew up eating "ethnic food," but I have very strong memories about pierogies. I was raised in upstate New York, but sometime holidays we would find ourselves in West Virginia at my grandparent's house. They were my Mom's side and very much Polish and Lithuanian. I remember down in the basement, on my grandpa's work bench, my grandma, mom, and her sister would make dozens and dozens of pierogies. The work bench was the only place that had enough room to roll and fill them all, especially since the kitchen was full of other tasks, like frying kielbasa and making poppy seed roll and pizzelles.It always seemed very "old world" to me, down in the dark basement, surrounded by my grandpa's welding equipment, rolling out dough and plopping down potato or cheese and dill fillings. Not that I was doing any of the pierogi assembling, as I was a child. But now, my mom has been showing me how to make them on my own, although I've only done it once solo. And those were way too thick and doughy.
So for New Years, I wanted pierogies. My mom made the dough, showed me how to roll it out thin, and put in a proper amount of filling. And then we browned three sticks of butter as a sauce. In Northeast PA I once had terrible, dull, but properly-made pierogies. I couldn't believe they didn't brown the butter, they just melted it and poured it over. But it was at a church bazaar, and they last thing I wanted to do was argue with an old church lady about the proper way to make pierogi.I think you need the brown butter to give the pierogies that savory depth that makes them rise above just mild noodles stuffed with potatoes or cheese. To not have that brown butter made them taste flat and dull.
Now in 2012, although we were in my Mom's brightly lit kitchen, not in a WWII-era brick house in the hills of Appalachia ,rolling out the dough and sealing the stuffing in with eggwash and fork tines still felt like a tradition. Which is different from just making comfort foods. As my sister-in-law Youngjoo told my mom, "Noodle making is a family activity."