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Vánočka

Vánočka (braided Czech yeast bread made for Christmas) may be one of the least changed recipes in it’s 140 plus years in Texas. In fact, I found one recipe in the K.J.T. Centennial Cookbook of 1989 (included in both English and Czech) that states the recipe is over 100 years old (“Vanocka – Czech Christmas Twist” by Ella Orsak Evanicky, who wrote that she made the bread just like her mother, who died in 1949, did.) The vánočka I made this year looked exactly like that of a friend’s mother who immigrated from the Czech Republic with great knowledge of traditional baking and exactly like a picture in cookbook I bought in the Czech Republic called “Czech Cookery” by Slovart Publishing, 2000. Even the recipes I found in Czech-American cookbooks from Iowa mirror those I found in Texas Czech community cookbooks and the few English language Czech cookbooks I have. Interestingly the four cookbooks I have in Czech specifically from the Valašsko region of Moravia, from where so many Texas Czech…
Recent posts

Christmas Cookies, Hot Toddies, and Wishing I Was in Prague

Yesterday I spent the evening baking with a friend who is moving to Prague in a few months to teach English. (Actually I made dough that went into the freezer for baking off today, but he baked dozens and dozens of cookies and brownies until 4am.)  For Christmas, I gave him a copy of the book of essays by Ivan Klima called The Sprit of Prague. I thought that it would be good for him to have a native’s perspective on the city’s tragic and triumphant history.
I reread the title essay and thought how true this passage was... "A city is like a person: if we don't establish a genuine relationship with it, it remains a name, an external form that soon fades from our minds. To create this relationship, we must be able to observe the city and understand its peculiar personally, its "I", its spirit, its identity, the circumstances of its life as they evolved through space in time. " My friend's Prague will not be the same Prague I know because he'll have a differ…

Summer Canning

Yesterday, I opened a jar of pickled brussel sprouts and carrots that I made a few weeks ago. I don't can often and wish I did more. The satisfying pull of the lid coming off the first time and the whiff of vinegar and garlic should inspire me more. But, I'm lulled into laziness because I always have something put up by my parents in either my fridge or pantry - beets, pickled this or that, jelly, tomatoes, salsa, flavored vinegar. I know I'll greatly miss the benefits of their industriousness when they decide it's too much trouble. 

Both my parents grew up in families that canned and, in that way it seems people of their generation can remember small details of growing up (they actually showed up for their lives as opposed to watching other's live lives on screens 24/7), they lovingly remember specific foods and tastes from specific family members.

My mother, who grew up in Hallettsville, remembers enjoying garlic pickles (spears), sweet and sour pickles (spears), b…

Czech Lemon Meringue Cheese Cake

I own about 350 cookbooks and food books. My maternal grandmother, on the other hand, owned maybe 25, with about 10 of those that she used regularly kept on an accessible kitchen shelf.  She also, however, collected hundreds of recipes from friends and relatives (handwritten by her or them) or clipped from the newspaper, from magazines, or off product packaging.


I've sorted through her various collections of these loose recipes in drawers, stuck into books, and in recipe boxes and categorized the handwritten ones into envelopes labeled things like soups and stews,  bread and rolls, side dishes, etc. One manilla envelope holds a dozen pie recipes, in which I found one for Czech Lemon Meringue Cheese Cake. It's in my grandmother's handwriting, but there are no notes to identify its source. Nor does my mother or one of her sisters remember my grandmother ever making it.

But make it, my mother did, recently for the annual Morkovsky reunion in Hallettsville, Texas. We were lookin…