Pan-Eurasian Hand Pie?

Börek. Bierock. Pirog. Pieróg. Is it just me or do all those words for a small hand pie — in Turkish, German, Russian, and Polish respectively — bear a striking resemblance to one another? Experts have claimed for some time they are not related, though there is some new scholarship that links böreks to bierocks I understand. If that’s the case, and as Poland and Germany are right next to one another, and indeed share so much common history, might not pierogis also be related to böreks?

Doesn’t seem too wacky of an idea, at least for this armchair food historian.

4 thoughts on “Pan-Eurasian Hand Pie?”

  1. I appreciate the need for experts in this world. But I have to admit, and I am definitely no expert, I really don’t buy the idea that these words are not related.

    I recently encountered bierocks for the first time, and being an armchair linguist, I immediately made the connection to pierogi. I speak German, and while there are seemingly infinite German dialects, a standard Hochdeutsch pronunciation of bierock approaches cross-language homonymic perfection when compared with the Polish pieróg. That said, bierock didn’t register to me as a German word, and when I was trying to figure out the actual origin, I learned about the Volga Germans, Germans of Russian origin. That got me to the Russian pirog, and while there are clearly differences in the Polish, Russian, and American (via Volga German) dishes, there is enough conceptual and linguistic resemblance to suggest a connection. I had assumed the common denominator was Poland, but I now suspect that it’s Russia.

    Although…

    Bourekas, böreks, etc., etc., are also an obvious fit, now that you mention it. I was actually first familiar with boureka as a Sephardic dish that made its way back to Israel as a ubiquitous street food, but then there’s Turkey, Greece and the entire of the Baltic region, and pretty much anywhere the Ottoman empire was, too. And here’s another clue for you: an alternative Turkish word for börek is böreği, which bears an even more striking resemblance. Either way, it’s a pastry or a pie.

    I know this is where the linguistic trails ends, but I can’t resist: you can’t spell pierogi without pie!

    1. Hey Joe!

      One thing I kept bumping into as I did my research was the claim that the “pier” in “pierogi” is an old Polish word for “feast”. Not having any facility with Polish I’m in no position to question that assertion. However I do find myself wondering if that might be an instance of a food historian searching for root word to fit a theory, if you follow me. It sounds plausible, and failing a better explanation, it’s a fact.

      Again, this is all just conjecture, but the word similarities are simply too much to ignore!

      Thanks for the comment,

      – Joe

  2. Yeah, same with Russian: pir is feast.

    Who’s to say that the Tatars didn’t bring both the dish and the word with them when they settled in the what is now the Volga region of present day Russia in the 7th century AD? Because what’s a feast without some kind of pie anyway? That would seal seams on this pastry debate once and for all.

    Probably going to have to leave this one to the culinary anthropologists, unless we can get a grant to do the work ourselves. Will require a large travel budget…

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