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Jidlo, Pivo, Vino

On July 20th, my good friend Lori and I hosted a dinner party at her home and we called it Jidlo, Pivo, Vino (Food, Beer, Wine). The goal was to expose friends to food popular in the Texas Czech community that didn't include the three things most people think about (kolaches, sausage, or sauerkraut.) We wanted to be seasonal and we made everything from scratch (unless otherwise noted.) Our menu is below along with lots of photos taken by us and attending friends (who I thank for their generosity in sharing... Don Jansky, Zoy Kocian, Sarah Shephard.) A special thank you to Roberta Vasek for homemade peach cobbler and Robin Graham-Moore for home baked rohlicky. Thank you to everyone who brought wine, beer, and slivovitz. And to Lori's husband Glen for indulging us and putting up with it all. 
Some things I learned: My mom's fried chicken recipe is rock solid but I will never fry chicken for 20 people again. (Took 2 hours.)Dinner parties are AWESOME.I wish we'd had a micr…
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1st Annual Kallus Chili Cook-Off and Reunion

Earlier this month, cousins and aunts and uncles from my mother's side of the family met in Hallettsville at my grandparents' house (who are both deceased) for what we hope will be the first annual Kallus Reunion and Chili Cook Off. My grandparents were Texas Czechs 100%; both of their fathers were actually born in Moravia. But steaming, spicy chili runs deep in the veins of their descendants, supporting the "Texas" half of us being Texas Czech.




I spent many weekends in junior high and high school at cook offs around South Central Texas. My father and the team he was a part of (which included friends and my Uncle Johnny Kallus) won many chili contests, but also barbecue, beans, sauce, and "wild card" contests. My father and his team even represented Texas at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1996, hauling their huge barrel barbecue pit all the way to the National Mall in Washington D.C. to do cooking demonstrations. The chili recipe his team (Bull Hookers…

Preserving Produce: The Sweet, Sour, and Savory

Sometimes when you start to think about a subject, you notice more and more references in the world to it. Suddenly it's randomly brought up in conversations, you might see signs for it, or run across it in a store or in the media. So it's been these last few weeks for me with canning.



After two family reunions, visits with cousins, and a trip to the farmers market on my way through Luling, I amassed quite a pantry full of items, more than I've ever had at one time. And such diversity, which really speaks to the bounty of Texas in the different areas that my relatives live, their personal tastes, and what's traditional to their family. I ended up with 16 jars of different things. Above are pickled beets (Don and Gladys Orsak from our Orsak reunion), hot dill pickles from Mikesh Produce in Luling, pear butter (cousin Ann Adams in Floresville), and apricot habanero jelly, made by cousin Rose Cofer and won in the silent auction at the Morkovsky reunion in Hallettsville.


Chef's Table

I rarely watch television, but in the last few weeks, both my sons and I have seen several episodes of Chef's Table on Netflix. My favorite is about the chef Magnus Nilsson and his restaurant Fäviken in Jämtland, Sweden. Nilsson created a menu that drew almost exclusively from ingredients that could be foraged or grown and raised on the land and in the waters near the restaurant. Since the area is covered in snow for months of the year, dishes utilize produce and meat preserved in various ways, from pickling, storing in a root cellar, and salting and drying. Nilsson also researched and wrote the massive Nordic Cookbook, in which he collected recipes from home cooks from all over Scandinavia and other countries.

I know, of course, that my Texas Czech great grandmothers (and even one more generation back) also foraged for and grew and raised what they ate every day. But I never knew them, so have no direct knowledge of what they grew, or how they cooked what they grew. No recipes s…

Giving Thanks for Being Czech

I've recently been looking through Sean N. Gallup's wonderful book Journeys into Czech-Moravian Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 1998) at the same time I've been looking through photos I took of my mom's last months. She passed away in January of this year. On page 83 of the book, Gallup has a poignant photo of small boy only a few years younger than my youngest son (at left). In the text under the photo, Gallup wrote "Trey [Ging] will likely never learn to speak more than a few words of Czech, and though the culture may remain evident in the values that guide him later in life, one can only wonder if he will retain his sense of connection to a Texas-Czech ethnic and personal identity."

These words were in my head as I looked at photos from my mom's last Thanksgiving dinner. My family and my sister-in-law's family joined at the home of my brother and his wife in Houston. There was absolutely nothing Czech about our meal, I'll say right up fr…