First person: For generations, pelmeni preserves Russian heritageJune 13, 2019 5:16pm

June 04-- Pelmeni. Oh, pelmeni.

Pelmeni is a traditional Russian dish. To my papa, pelmeni look like tiny ears. To my sister, Sophia, they look like smooshed balls. To my mama, they look like little suns.

To me, they look like a tiny hat. About the size of a penny, a banana slice, or even a cherry, they're sort of like dumplings, but so much more. If a Russian sees pelmeni they will probably think, "Awesome. A piece of home!"

I am Daniella Babichenko, and my parents are immigrants from Belarus. Belarus is not in Russia, like many people think. Belarus is in eastern Europe. It's surrounded by Lithuania and Latvia to the north, Russia to the north and east, Ukraine to the south, and Poland to the west.

My family lived in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. In Minsk, there are lots of tall buildings and mostly everyone lived in apartments. The subways were gorgeous, and everyone always went on them. In other words, cozy and European.

When my parents'families emigrated from Belarus to the United States, they brought the tradition of making pelmeni with them. Pelmeni are important to me because, well, they are yummy. June is the Annual Russian Heritage Month, so I learned to make pelmeni from scratch with my sister, my mama, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. I'm writing about it because I want to share my love of pelmeni with other people, just like my mama and papa did with me.

Pelmeni are little balls of meat wrapped in dough. The dish of pelmeni was originally made for convenience. I don't know for sure when pelmeni entered Russian cuisine. One idea is that they originated in China, and they gradually spread as far as Eastern Europe. Hunters loved them because they were easy to prepare, light to carry, and nourishing meals that hunters could take with them on long trips in the winter.

A person would make hundreds at a time. Yes, it would take a long time, but they would last for a long time, too. If you were hungry you could just boil some, and BAM, you would get a meal.

Fun fact: pelmeni dough is made from only flour and water.

To make pelmeni, you make the dough, and meat, cut the dough into circles, put in the meat. Then, you would pinch the sides and sort of fold it.

Most of the time making pelmeni is a family activity. In Belarus, women in my mama's and papa's families would gather to make pelmeni. Each one of them would have a job such as preparing the meat or rolling the dough.

Sometimes my mama would even get together with neighbors. I imagine the environment around the making of pelmeni was probably filled with laughter and Russian speaking. The kitchen would always smell like butter and meat, and deliciousness. The women would talk and make thousands of pelmeni. Then they would split them among themselves.

Making pelmeni is special, because you work together, but you don't have a special occasion to eat them.

Eating one of these feels like eating on a pink unicorn on a rainbow (only in Russian).

Making pelmeni is a hard process, but at the end, it is worth it!

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Daniella Babichenko, 10, is an iGeneration Youth reporter living in Pittsburgh, Pa.

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Read more stories at igenerationyouth.com.

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(c)2019 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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