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Klobasniky - You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do

Memorial Day weekend. My sister's new beach house in Galveston. Our whole family sleeping in one place and it's not Christmas. There's the beach to enjoy, HD televisions to watch, there are 7 children to tend between the ages of 8 months and 11 years. There are meals to cook, trips to make to the store for flip-flops and fishing lures, diapers to change, sunscreen to put on, visiting to do, packing and unpacking to do. Somehow my sister and I decide before the trip that we're going to have time to make klobasniky from scratch and bring all the ingredients (my mom even threw her KitchenAid in the car!?)

This says many things about us... we're overambitious, industrious, hopeful, love sausage, enjoy being in the kitchen together, wish we were the kind of women who made klobasniky from scratch, and really do want to stay in touch with our Czech heritage, especially through food. But did it happen? Well... yes and no.

It was clear as the morning unfolded that dragging th…

Interviewing My Grandmother

Things never go the way you think they’ll go. As I was driving down to where my grandmother (D.) lives to interview her with my mother, I was thinking about food cooked by Texas-Czechs and how D’s memories and experience might contribute to what I know about it (and hope everyone knows eventually by writing a book.) And I was thinking, of course, that D is 94 years old (see photo left) and how I should have made this first trip years ago, wondering how much she’d remember; how much she’d be willing to share.

I met my mother at D’s house which is less than a mile away from the nursing home she now lives in. We were both excited about the prospect of interviewing D, but I think not wanting to get our hopes up too high for fear that she wouldn’t really be engaged or just not interested in talking about the past. Our fears were not unfounded as she’s not been that willing to talk about herself in the past (though did reluctantly.) We discussed the things we most wanted to know from D, de…

Eating Her Words

The interview with my grandmother was postponed. One of my aunts had the opportunity to go visit my grandmother and because my mother goes so often, she's happy to give another sibling the chance to visit. (Better than doubling up and then leaving my grandmother un-visited for a weekend.)

So, to tide myself over, I've been looking for recipes of my grandmother's.... clues to what kind of cook she was, what family meals were like, how she made 3 meals a day happen 365 for a husband and 8 children. As a side note, I keep meaning to read the following books, but haven't done it yet. Anyone read them?

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances ~ Laura SchenoneEat My Words: Reading Women's Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote ~ Janet TheophanoBack to my grandmother... I found several of her recipes in a little book published by the Catholic Daughters of America (no publication date,) The recipes do not see…

?'s what's for dinner.

The last few days I've been thinking about my mother asking her mother about what her mother cooked. (The fact that I have a direct live connection - my grandmother - to someone whose identity was formed in the 19th century - my great-grandmother - thrills me.) I've been thinking about this while I do my daily planning (too much) for what to cook myself, my man (when he's not cooking for me), the baby, and "Googa," which is what the baby calls my older son. My man and I struggle weekly, if not daily, to take picky eating, the budget, convenience, health, and the planet into consideration when shopping and cooking. For any ingredient in any recipe or any foodstuff, I probably have at the bare minimum 5 choices within a 5 mile radius of my house.

I'm imagining I'm my great-grandmother (GG to keep from writing it over and over). I'm living in rural South Central Texas. It's 1916 and I have a husband and 11 children. It's late afternoon and everyon…

The Invitation

Got a call from my mom on Monday, wanting to tell me about her "food and family" conversation with her own mother. My mom had spent the last two days in the town she grew up in visiting with my grandmother (photo above), who's been living in a nursing home the last year, after decades taking care of herself. My mom visits my grandmother often - every weekend practically, if not more. I don't know what all they come up with to talk about it and it seems that even she's running out of conversation topics.
So, on this last visit, she started asking my grandmother about food and my grandmother's mother (photo at right), who died in a car accident the year my grandmother got married (1937.) My mother told me excitedly about some of the answers she got to her questions - answers that reassured us about certain things regarding Czech food in Texas. Or things that my mother knew, but had forgotten she knew. Eventually, after some satisfying interactions for my mom, …

How did I get here (professionally)?

For the last 15 years, it seems I've thought about food on a daily basis (besides eating it), but not like most food bloggers do. I did have a period in my life (first marriage, 20s, stint as a vegetarian) when finding the next delicious recipe was what it was all about... a new flavor combination to explore, new technique to master, friends to impress, family to convince that being a vegetarian wouldn't kill me.

But in 1994, an opportunity redirected my focus, or rather broadened my idea of what was relevant about food's place in my life. Those previous reasons were still important, but overlayed upon them were family, history, ethnicity, culture, geography. In '94, I was working for a nonprofit arts organization called Texas Folklife Resources (TFR) in Austin as their Administrative Assistant. I had, 2 years earlier, gotten a BFA in Painting, but that was, of course, useless. Our director at TFR was approached by the Smithsonian Institution, looking for Texas Czechs t…

Ta dah!!!

After 3 failed attempts at teaching a class called Recipes for Family History through UT Informal Classes (hardly anyone signed up) and one of those conversations where the universe works through someone unexpected to kick your butt out of feeling-sorry-for-yourself lethargy, I’m going to put my class syllabus to the test with my own family background and blog about it. (Thanks Addie! See Addie's post about our discussion.)
With laptop, camera, notepad, years of stuff collected about my family and Czech food in Texas, and probably an active toddler with a strangle hold on my pants leg and a super-smart tween keeping me straight, I’m going to basically do what I’ve told myself for years I want to do. And that's to interview relatives and other Texas-Czech community members about food memories, test recipes in Texas-Czech cookbooks, “apprentice” with my parents to learn how to do everything from can beets to barbecue a brisket, attend kolache festivals, and record anything and e…