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Greater Binghamton reigns as U.S. pierogy king
BINGHAMTON -- The Home To Innovation, the Parlor City, Carousel Capital of the country, is now also the Capital of the Pierogy Pocket of America.
Binghamton Reigns as U.S. Pierogy King
Mrs. T's credits St. Michael's Church; $10,000 goes to CHOW
By Brian Liberatore
Press & Sun-Bulletin
BINGHAMTON -- The Parlor City, carousel capital of the country, is now also the Capital of the Pierogy Pocket of America.
Mrs. T's, the Shenandoah, Pa., purveyor of pierogies, Wednesday named Binghamton the premier pierogy city, above competition from Buffalo, Lancaster, N.Y., Clifton, N.J., and Whiting, Ind. The city prevailed in the nationwide contest, which garnered more than 60,000 online votes, inspired a far-reaching campaign and a controversial endorsement reversal by U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
"I guess this means we have the best," said the Rev. Stephen Dutko of St. Michael's Greek Orthodox Church in the city's First Ward. St. Michael's led the local effort and designated the Broome County Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) as the sole benefactor of a $10,000 prize from Mrs. T's.
Dutko was christened the "Pirohi King" locally for his decades of work at St. Michael's to make the stuffed pasta a Lenten treat since 1964. That's when he started the church's pirohi project to raise funds for renovations. The event now uses 6,300 pounds of flour, along with 7,600 pounds of potatoes and 5,040 eggs to make thousands of the ethnic delicacies each Lent.
"For 43 years, we've been building this," Dutko said. "This is a labor of love."
Binghamton's nomination was largely the work Dutko and his son, the Rev. James Dutko, who secured 1,000 signatures on a nominating petition submitted to Mrs. T's -- along with a mayoral proclamation and other documents -- in support of Binghamton's application. Online votes came from Dutko's friends and family still in Eastern Europe, and even last year's winning city of Buffalo, where Dutko on a recent trip distributed church bulletins pushing for Binghamton's designation.
Clinton initially endorsed a Buffalo church in the contest, but backed away from the endorsement after a Press & Sun-Bulletin reporter contacted her office.
"Senator Clinton is happy to have all of these great pierogi-producing cities (Binghamton, Lancaster and Buffalo) representing New York state in the contest," said Clinton spokesman Eric Bederman in an e-mail to the Press & Sun-Bulletin earlier this month. "She looks forward to seeing one of them bring home the title of the 'Capital of the Pierogy Pocket of America.'"
Following the Binghamton announcement, Clinton released a statement saying she was "happy to hear that St. Michael's Church had persevered in its pursuit of pierogy perfection to help bring the Capitol of the Pierogy Pocket to Binghamton."
The "Pierogy Pocket" is the geographical area of the country that has the highest pierogy consumption based on the national average.
The "pocket" includes New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, southern New England and parts of the Mid-Atlantic. The company's varieties -- including potato and cheddar, potato and onion, sauerkraut, and potato, cheddar and jalapeño -- are sold at most groceries in the Southern Tier.
Pierogy eating in the "pocket" accounts for 68 percent of all U.S. consumption. The cities with the highest consumption include New York, Syracuse and Buffalo, last year's champion.
"I was really touched by the idea that (St. Michael's) church was so involved," said company President Tom Twardzik, whose father started the company that now makes 11.4 million pierogies a week in its 200-employee plant in the Coal Region of Pennsylvania, near Pottsville. Twardzik said his father founded the company in 1952 after witnessing the success of pierogy sales at his church.
"This is a great moment for us," CHOW Director Ed Blaine said. "Someone said to me, 'How can you compete against communities that are that big?' I said you have to understand that if people in Broome County get a hold of something, it goes through the roof."
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