‘Father Michael,’ parishioners cook ethnic specialties for bazaar

By Mary Therese Biebel - [email protected]
Mary Neely helps the Rev. Michael Kerestes spread cabbage on a tray while Ann Marie Popovitch waits to stir cabbage and noodles together. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Bazaar volunteer Kathy Hall and church pastor the Rev. Michael Kerestes add cabbage to a frying pan on a stove in the social hall of St. Mary of the Assumption Byzantine Catholic Church. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Darlene Coluter, PatriciaArasin, Amanda Bealla and Ver Carr ready potatoes for potato ancakes. Aimee Dilger|Times Leader - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — The social hall kitchen at St. Mary of the Assumption Byzantine Church became a kind of “Haluski Headquarters” on Wednesday, as Ann Marie Popovitch, of Wilkes-Barre, tended three large pans of cabbage sizzling in butter, and Kathy Hall, of Larksville, continually whisked eggs and added milk to flour for a traditional dough.

“We’re going to have 20 batches of dough,” Hall said with a determined smile. “I’m on No. 4.”

Standing by the stove, the Rev. Michael Kerestes transformed Hall’s latest bowlful of dough into noodles by pushing it through a hand-held grater so little pieces would fall directly into a pot of boiling water.

“This is my favorite food,” the priest declared, reminiscing about how he had watched his mother and grandmother make haluski — a Slavic mix of cabbage and noodles — when he was growing up in Lansford, south of Hazleton.

“That’s how you know it’s homemade,” he said, pointing to the irregular surface of the noodles, which some of the volunteers called “dumplings” and others called “spaetzle.”

The church pastor likes to cook, and his enthusiasm has rejuvenated workers who are preparing for this weekend’s church bazaar, Linda Bealla, of Wilkes-Barre, said as she cleaned potatoes for potato pancakes.

“He’s the chief cook and bottle washer,” Hall added, explaining “Father Michael” took the lead in preparing 940 halupki — that’s stuffed cabbage, also known as piggies, not to be confused with the cabbage-and-noodle mix of haluski — as well as a large quantity of Hungarian-style hamburger called schnitzel.

While the priest and several other haluski makers worked with cabbage and noodles in the kitchen, half a dozen other volunteers removed eyes from potatoes destined for potato pancakes and Doris Macynski, of Wilkes-Barre, tackled a 50-pound sack of onions by herself.

“I keep my mouth open a little,” she said as she removed an onion skin, indicating that breathing that way, instead of through your nose, cuts down on the urge to cry.

The ethnic foods, rooted in Slovak, Ukrainian and Hungarian traditions, are a huge draw at the annual bazaar, which is set for Friday through Sunday on the grounds of the church, located at 695 North Main Street, and its nearby social hall, 522 Madison St.

People can look forward to more Eastern European delicacies on Sept. 25, when the church is planning a chicken paprikash dinner to coincide with a concert of vocalists from St. Petersburg, Russia, Hall said.

“Father Michael is so good at cooking,” she added, “we want him to offer cooking classes in the future, open to the public. We’re working on him.”

Mary Neely helps the Rev. Michael Kerestes spread cabbage on a tray while Ann Marie Popovitch waits to stir cabbage and noodles together.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_TTL080418cabbage1.jpgMary Neely helps the Rev. Michael Kerestes spread cabbage on a tray while Ann Marie Popovitch waits to stir cabbage and noodles together. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Bazaar volunteer Kathy Hall and church pastor the Rev. Michael Kerestes add cabbage to a frying pan on a stove in the social hall of St. Mary of the Assumption Byzantine Catholic Church.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_TTL080418cabbage2.jpgBazaar volunteer Kathy Hall and church pastor the Rev. Michael Kerestes add cabbage to a frying pan on a stove in the social hall of St. Mary of the Assumption Byzantine Catholic Church. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Darlene Coluter, PatriciaArasin, Amanda Bealla and Ver Carr ready potatoes for potato ancakes. Aimee Dilger|Times Leader
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_TTL080418cabbage3.jpgDarlene Coluter, PatriciaArasin, Amanda Bealla and Ver Carr ready potatoes for potato ancakes. Aimee Dilger|Times Leader Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
St. Mary Byzantine Church Bazaar continues Saturday, Sunday

By Mary Therese Biebel

[email protected]

IF YOU GO

What: St. Mary’s Byzantine Church Bazaar

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Parish grounds, 695 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, with entrance to parish social hall at 522 Madison St.

Entertainment: The Sperazza Band plays 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Iron Cowboy 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Group Therapy 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT