A blog sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Sharing news and information about the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Quilt Index, the MSU Museum's traditional arts activities, Great Lakes traditional artists and arts resources, and much more. Development of content for this blog supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Keeping Polish Traditions Alive in Lansing

The Federated Polish Home of Lansing, Michigan has been a center for local Polish American culture and social life since 1929. The home houses branches of three national organizations—Polish Falcons of America, Polish National Alliance, and White Eagle Association. In 2013, a National Endowment for the Arts grant to the Michigan State University Museum supported my fieldwork with the home’s two food-based public festivals and fundraisers. These events express ethnic identity while sharing and teaching Polish American foodways. Via the Polish Home’s Facebook page, the community is invited to learn how to make pierogi and golabki. Everyone is welcome.

Lansing, Michigan's historic Federated Polish Home during Pulaski Days, 2012.
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers.
The first weekend in October, I secretly loosened my belt and sat down to an ample plate of Polish American specialties. It was Pulaski Days, when visitors can enjoy a dinner of kielbasa, cheese and potato pierogi, kapusta (sauerkraut), and golabki (cabbage roll), and then work it all off by dancing the polka!
Making golabki is a communal activity at Lansing's Federated Polish Home, 2013.
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers.
Pierogi Days, the newer of the two events, originated with the Federated Polish Home’s booth at the Taste of Traditions Food Court during the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing. After learning how to prepare and serve large quantities of pierogi at the festival, the group decided to devote its resources and energy toward raising funds for the Polish home. Pierogi typically are half-moon shaped, filled dumplings made of unleavened dough—popular throughout central and Eastern Europe and among North American ethnic groups with roots in these regions. As a dedicated researcher, I naturally had to try each of the five kinds sold at Pierogi Days, the different fillings representing diverse regional and family traditions. (Did I mention that these are unusually large pierogi, which devotees top with “the works”—sour cream, bacon pieces, and sautéed onion? Once again, I found myself loosening my belt....) Lansing is crazy about pierogi. In 2013, dedicated group of 29 members and volunteers assembled a staggering 9065 pierogi—representing 1100 hours of work—that are fried in bacon grease and sold the first Saturday in May. They are plump, mouth-watering, and not recommended for a heart-healthy diet! Next year they plan to make even more. Mark your calendars.

Frying pierogi at the 2013 Pierogi Days.
Photo by Laurie Kay Sommers

Hear Pat Krawczynski talk about Lansing’s Federated Polish Home and the origin of Pulaski Days and Pierogi Days. Pat has adopted the Polish traditions of her husband’s family and is president of the Polish Falcons of America Nest 652.

See golabki-making during the week leading up to Pulaski Days.

Learn how the best-selling cheese and potato pierogi are made.