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Do I Have To Learn How to Spell Pierogi?

Leaving behind Mexican food and culture is hard to do.

... because I can't.

One of the hardest things to get used to living near Pittsburgh is spelling the word pierogi. I’m not kidding. It’s clearly a food staple here—and an extremely delicious one— but it’s impossible to spell.

Obviously with living in San Diego, which is about 15 miles from the border of Mexico, there is a heavy Hispanic influence in the area. Every street corner, and I mean every street corner, has a taco shop on it. Reyberto’s, Roberto’s, Roloberto’s, Humberto’s, Umberto’s, Rigoberto’s, you name it, they’re everywhere. So naturally, words like carne asada, tortilla, pico de gallo, pollo asado and chiliquiles are all words that I am familiar with and that I can spell and recognize with ease.

But pierogi, I don’t even know where to begin.

My jaw almost hit the floor recently when I was grocery shopping and asked an employee where the tortillas were. She was dumbfounded. I promise you, I was not pronouncing it with a heavy accent while emphasizing my ability to roll my “r’s,” a skill I hold dear.

“Like chips?” she said.

“No, a tortilla. A tortilla.” I didn’t even know what to say.

I’m not at all implying that this woman is stupid for not knowing. It was just so strange to me to encounter someone who was unfamiliar with a tortilla. But that’s just my egocentric, Southern California self assuming everyone enjoys a huge stack of rolled tacos from Saguaro’s.

In fact, I’ve come to learn that when my mom announces she wants to eat “normal food,” that, in fact, means, “not Mexican.”

Another thing that is so strange to me is that my name is common in this part of the country. Never in my life have I ever come across another Kovash or Kovach.

Actually it would be very strange to meet another Kovash. From what I hear, it’s the incorrect revision of a different name that often was misspelled—but that’s a whole other story that begins on Ellis Island. Apparently though, many of my german and slovic brethren can be found here.

Having lived in the same area my whole life, my inclination is to think everyone else is weird, but in reality, I’m the weird one. I’m strange for wanting to eat a breakfast burrito everyday, so I better learn how to spell pierogi.

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Carolyn M. February 08, 2012 at 12:56 PM
I'm curious - have you found a favorite mexican joint here yet? Do tell...
AmyJo Brown February 08, 2012 at 07:33 PM
My husband is from Los Angeles, and I lived there for a few years. Best place we've found in Pittsburgh is the California Taco Shop on Saw Mill Run Road. The guys running it are from San Diego. Here's a link: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/23/1635008/restaurant/Far-South-South-Hills/California-Taco-Shop-Pittsburgh
Sarah Kovash February 08, 2012 at 08:19 PM
I have been to El Campesino, which was delicious, but I'm open to some suggestions!
Sarah Kovash February 08, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Someone suggested that to me! I can't wait to try it. If they have carne asado fries, I might faint!
rocket air February 09, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I like the food at Patron in Wexford. Its owner is Mexican.
Frissa La Phou February 10, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I feel your pain and I'm not even outside of California. Once you leave SoCal forget about finding mexican food like that ever again! In NorCal all I can find are burritos and organic, locally grown, "healthy" mexican and who wants that?! I'd give my right arm for pollo asada fires from Saggie's right now.

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