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  • Ellen Romer Niemiec

Dumplings, Companionship, & Passing Time

The first time I was pregnant, we called the baby ‘pierogi.’ As someone who loves to cook and shares that love with dear friends, we had the (brilliant? crazy?) idea to have a dumpling themed baby shower. Pierogies, dumplings, raviolis - we were going to wrap dough around delicious.


Dumplings are not a quick endeavor. You have to prepare the filling, which, depending on your recipe, may require cooking some of the components. Then you take the time to assemble the dumplings: filling the wrapper with just enough, folding it carefully, and pinching the edges together. Then do it again. And again. Dumpling after dumpling after dumpling. Eventually, you get to cook them.


Fill, fold, pinch, Fill, fold, pinch. The first tray filled up. Then the next. We just kept going and going as they took up more and more space on the table and yet somehow there were more to make.


Fill, fold, pinch.


We made dozens and dozens and then one thing led to another and we just kept cooking. We made meatloaves for the next day’s dinner. We segmented blood orange after blood orange for sorbet. Finding we had a ton of egg whites led to a pavlova. We remembered we needed to actually eat and so came a quick but satisfying soup. A day that was the good kind of full: productive, but with intention, and full of conversations I can’t remember but still delight in.


Fill, fold, pinch. Fill, fold, pinch.


Maybe it’s dumplings. Maybe it’s cabbage rolls. Or tamales. Or Christmas cookies. Treats that take a little longer, that you mostly enjoy for special occasions, and keep your hands busy. The movements that over time settle into the muscles of your hands until they are ingrained as memory, letting your hands move without a thought.


Fill, fold, pinch. Fill, fold, pinch.


My hands aren’t all that is moving - God seems to weave in and out. There’s companionship around the table and in the sink full of dirty dishes. Finding moments for silliness and also tender conversations. I can pass the time without rushing to the end. I don’t have to make the journey ‘worth it.’ We can just be together on the journey to who knows where - where else would I be?


Fill, fold, pinch. Fill, fold, pinch.


Wading through infertility and negative pregnancy tests. Wondering when grief might lessen, even if it never ceases. Wanting children to stay tiny forever and yet craving to see the people they are becoming. Sitting with a loved one through chemo. Checking if the numbers are good enough to be discharged from the NICU. Knowing that the last two weeks of pregnancy are as long as the previous 38. Sometimes feeling God immovably present. Sometimes begging God to show their face.


Fill, fold, pinch. Fill, fold, pinch.


I want to pass the time but not lose it. I want to get to the end but not miss the goodness in the waiting. I want to honor the tenderness of the waiting that can seem so endless. I want to hold the joy. I still remember the weary aches of my very pregnant body near the end. I think of so many who feel the aches and pains of carrying something for weeks, months and even years on end. I pray for the rest and consolation of tired bodies.


Fill, fold, pinch. Fill, fold, pinch.


We are so close to Christmas but we are not yet there. We light more candles now, filling the darkness more and more. We wait in joyful hope that Christ will come into the world and remember that God chose and still chooses to be with us. We do not have to wait alone. We can pass the time alongside others and let them pass it with us. Every fill, fold and pinch offers a little moment to be with each other and for God to sneak in to be with us too.





Pork & Chive Dumplings


These dumplings came from a friend’s mother. The recipe we used was from notes taken on a cellphone while we watched her make them for us.


1-1.25 lbs ground pork

3-4 chives, minced

3 tbsp oyster sauce

Pinch of salt

1 tsp shoyu or soy sauce

2 eggs

2.5 tsps cornstarch


Pack of ~50 wonton wrappers.


Mix all ingredients together, gently. The mixture should look a little wetter than meatballs. Let the mixture sit overnight if possible.


Lay out a wonton wrapper. Scoop a small tablespoon of filling into the center. Dip a finger into water and run it over the edge of the wrapper. Carefully fold the wrapper into a halfmoon shape. Pinch the edges together in small pleats, around the edge to seal the wrapper. It doesn’t have to look cute!


Heat oil in a saute pan until it begins to sizzle. Place 6 - 10 dumplings in the pan. Add 6 tablespoons of hot water and cover. Let steam until wrappers are translucent and the water is mostly evaporated. Remove from pan and try to let them cool before devouring.



My go-to dumpling dipping sauce


1 tsp sugar

Juice of 1 lime (or more to taste)

⅓ cup thai fish sauce

1 clove garlic, minced or grated

1 tsp crushed pepper flake (or more to taste)


In a small bowl or ramekin, mix lime juice and sugar until it dissolves. Add fish sauce, garlic and crushed pepper. Let sit for at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld.


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