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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…
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Pork Served Grandma's Style

Looking through a box of recipes that my grandmother saved from local newspapers, I found a directive for dinner from Emily (Smolik) Buckert, who wrote the longtime Good Taste column in the Victoria Advocate beginning in the 1960s... "Now is a good time to return to the old fashioned goodness of pork chops and some of the dishes that grandmother served," she wrote before offering a recipe for Pork Steaks with Kraut. I absolutely agree, I thought. Now is the time.

I made a date to spend last Saturday morning with my friend Lori at the Sunset Valley Farmer's Market and then Central Market looking for ingredients. Lori and I do what I imagine my grandmother did with her neighbors... share surplus produce or dishes we made too much of. Or we test new recipes on each other to get a second opinion. We're thinking about hosting a dinner party together soon, so have been talking a lot about food lately, especially food in the Texas Czech community and what our grandmothers a…

Kolacheese

In April of 2018 I got laid off from my job. It was, as layoffs will be, unexpected. I had no savings and no plan and only knew that I desperately wanted to work for myself, trying to make a living from the things that I was most passionate about... Texas Czech food, history, and culture. I started throwing the proverbial spaghetti at the wall. I created a website for my services to plan family reunions and help people publish family cookbooks. I started a side business baking kolaches. And I entered a recipe in the annual contest called the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown. I figured that if I won, the thousands of dollars in prize money would keep me going for a little while and one of Texas Czechs' beloved regional foods would gain more national attention in the process.

I am the very first person to correct someone calling what is actually a klobasnik, a kolach. So I'll admit that in financial desperation I ignored my own principles for the sake of marketing. A ve…

My Mother

Three months ago, on January 22, my mother passed away at her home in Katy peacefully with close family members around her bed. She was 71. Her life changed literally overnight in 2011 when she learned she had cancer – her colon ruptured during the night with very little warning. She never went back to work again, never went on an overseas trip again. Her relationship to the world, and to the people in it, became framed by her health, treatments, and how much time she had left to be with us. But my parents’ neighbor Chuck told me he can’t remember one encounter with Betty when she appeared to have a bad day, even during the long battle with her illness. To her last days, she continued to be positive and hopeful, to bake, to listen to and encourage the people in her life, to host and attend family events, and to laugh (or roll her eyes, depending on the situation). She was funny and supportive, creative, generous and sarcastic, playful, positive, and gracious.


My love of good cooking…

Cesky Vecer 2018

I sometimes feel like Austin, though it’s the heart of the state, is a barren wasteland of Texas Czech culture. Rarely does a polka band play here. (Yes, they do play, but rarely.) It’s not possible to find a decent kolach. There are no traditionally Czech Catholic churches, so no picnics are held like the ones that happen in small, rural towns in the Texas “Czech Belt.” The University of Texas’ Center for Russian and East European Studies sometimes has fantastic lectures, but they’re scheduled during the weekday for students or retired folks, so I never get to attend. The Travis-Williamson Counties Czech Heritage Society chapter meets monthly, but in Pflugerville or Taylor on a weekday night, making it impossible to attend with a full-time job and child in school in far south Austin. (Austin traffic!!!) 
I sometimes forget that there are thousands of people in this city that probably have some Czech family history. This feeling made me appreciate even more the Cesky Vecer event held…

How to Eat Texas Czech in October

October is Czech Heritage Month in Texas. What a fitting excuse to eat and learn about Czech and Texas Czech traditional foods. At the bottom of this post are several events at which you can do just that.

If you want to cook Czech food in October, by all means cook local and seasonal. In Texas in October, there are lots of fruits and vegetables to buy at your local farmers market that are widely used in the Texas Czech kitchen. Here are some suggestions.


apples and pears - make kolach fillings, pies, and bundt cakes, or pear preservescauliflower - make fried cauliflower or pickled cauliflowercabbage - make sauerkraut, fried cabbage, zelniky (cabbage kolaches), slaw, or sauerkraut saladokra - make stewed okra with tomatoes
Last weekend I tried yet another sauerkraut recipe (pictured above), this one with apples and potatoes. It was just the right balance of sweet and sour and rich and tangy. I used Granny Smith apples so things didn't get too sweet and served it with pan-fried sausag…

33rd Caldwell Kolache Festival

In 2013 and 2015, I was a judge at the Caldwell Kolache Festival. This year, because of baking so many kolaches in the last 2 months after starting a home-based cottage food business, I decided to enter the baking contest. Though I’ve only been in business since the end of July, the proceeds I’ve made from the business just barely exceeded the limit over which I am considered a “professional.”  Needless to say, baking in my apartment one pan at a time could not compete with the likes of Pearl Snap in Fort Worth (2018 Reserve Professional Grand Champion) and Zamykal Kolaches in Dallas (2018 Professional Grand Champion), both commercial bakeries cranking out huge (and huge numbers of) kolaches. I did not even place, but wasn’t surprised either.

The morning of the contest, I had my alarm set for 3:30 a.m. This was going to give me enough time to make dough for 48 kolaches, fill, and bake them, shower etc., while the dough was rising, get my 9 year old up and ready to go, and be out the…