“Now whenever you see ravioli, you can call it Italian varenyky,” joked Chef Bo Porytko, at Ukrainians of Colorado’s cooking class fundraiser.
Hosted on Oct. 2, the fundraiser was filled with 42 students, three cooks and the smells of pletinka, bigos varenyky and borscht.
Ukrainians of Colorado is a nonprofit that formed eight years ago in response to the war starting in Ukraine in 2014, when Russia seized Crimea, and for the need of a social club for Ukrainians to “exchange ideas … preserve our heritage, our language … and help Ukraine,” president of the group Marina Dubrova said. The cooking class was one way to do just that.
It had Tetiana Stratilat, a private culinary chef in Kyiv who only arrived in Colorado a few months ago, preparing pletinka — a braided poppy seed bread — with students rolling out the dough and braiding the breads themselves. Before long, Nataliya Dun, who said she’d never taught a cooking class before, had made a potato dish with bacon and crushed onions for everyone to try before starting borscht from scratch.
The most involved for the class might have been Porytko’s bigos varenyky, or pierogies. After making the dough, people were shown how to roll and cut out the circles to then wrap the varenyky filling in. Porytko, who’s also the head chef of Misfits Snack Bar, had to find another pan because, as he put it, he’d created a varenyky-making monster.
Katya Magee, a Lakewood resident whose grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine, said she makes plenty of Ukrainian food at home, but was sure she could learn more.
“It’s definitely a great way to get more exposure to different stories. You’re able to listen to everyone,” said Elvis Dun, who is from Odessa, Ukraine and moved to Colorado in 2014, on the more social aspects.
Also on the menu for Porytko was chicken kiev roulade — a core of butter, garlic, paprika and parsley wrapped with pounded chicken thighs before being breaded and fried. Students were able to pound and wrap their own.
At the same time, Porytko made the point that Ukrainian cuisine is not one cuisine, but many. Just as food is different from north to south here due to climate, the same goes for Ukraine. He gave the example of south Ukraine, which he compares to Florida, not using many root vegetables due to the summer climate as up north, which he compares to Colorado.
Ukrainian music filled the air alongside the smells of food as people finally sat to eat their creations. “We drink a lot, we dance a lot,” said Dubrova, as wine and vodka was passed out for the varenyky, borscht — vegetarian and meat — and roulade.
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