Skip to main content

?...it'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 everyone will be hungry by 6. What's for dinner? I'm not as interested in exactly what my GG would have served, but more what her thought processes were to make the meal happen. Because if I think it's stressful to figure out what my 2 kids and man and I are going to eat at 6:30 as I'm driving home from work at 5:30, what if my only choices were what was growing or walking around in my yard, or stored away from the hopefully-successful fruits of past labors? My first thought is that THAT had to have been stressful. (If I had to create meals that way currently, we'd be eating begonias and a stray cat.)

Back to my GG and imagining what she was thinking as she planned dinner... First, the time of year would be making a huge difference - was she picking ingredients, killing them, bringing them in from the barn, opening a jar of them, raiding a hive for them, bartering with her neighbors for them? Other considerations... caring for the planet and recyclable packaging... huh? Eating local... was there another option? Eating sustainable.... how about sustaining her 11 kids? Picky eaters.... here's a situation where when Mom says "eat what I make or there isn't anything else", she meant it.

These are some of the things I'll be asking my grandmother when my mom and I go interview her next weekend...
  • What were the food resources available to my GG? (garden, beef club, her own animals, neighbors, local grocery store and for what things, fruit and nut trees, beehive, etc.)
  • What was a typical evening meal like in the spring; in the winter?
  • Who, if anyone, helped my GG prepare meals?

When is the last time I stopped to give thanks for being born in a time of such choice and plenty and truly appreciated how incredibly easy the acquisition of food is nowadays and meal planning should be? Never until now. So, tonight I'll cook whatever's in the refrigerator and like it because I didn't have to kill it myself, it was already in my kitchen waiting to be cooked, and it will only take 1/2 an hour to prepare.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Buchta with Nuts and Raisins

In his photo book Journeys into Czech Moravian Texas, author Sean N. Gallup wrote a few paragraphs about food in contemporary Texas- Czech culture. During his fieldwork, he observed "Other Texas-Czech pastries [besides kolaches] include klobasniky.... and buchta, a larger fruit filled loaf.... " (Texas A&M University Press, 1998).

Though my grandmother made an apricot buchta (or she just called it a roll), more common buchty might be poppyseed or cream cheese. Less common seems to be the buchta I've made filled with nuts and raisins. The Czech word "buchta" doesn't seem to be surviving as well as the word "kolach" either, for though Gallup mentions it third in a list of common Texas Czech pastries, I've found it almost impossible to find a recipe in a community cookbook that actually uses the word buchta. Instead, I find recipes for "rolls".  Still, Westfest actually has a buchta category in it's annual baking contest. And po…

Picnic Stew Part 1

"In the late summer and autumn what was known as Valachian goulash was cooked - a thin, almost soup-like mutton stew. As the name tells us, this was most popular in Walachia, a mountainous region by the Slovak border. It was cooked in a large cauldron. The so-called goulash parties meant good entertainment. Even today no one would scorn an invitation to a pot of good stew and fine songs accompanied on the harmonica."

The paragraph above was written by Dr. Jaroslav Stika in a draft piece called "Czech Folk Cooking" written for the 1995 Festival of American Folklife, in which the Czech Republic was featured.  Dr. Stika was the former director of the Wallachian Open-Air Museum in Roznov, Moravia, Czech Republic and, unfortunately died last year, so I can't talk with him about what he wrote. However, to me, he is describing the forefather of the picnic stew served at many Texas-Czech church picnics in late summer and autumn, especially in Lavaca and Fayette Countie…

Dougal Makes Cream Cheese Rolls

When my 14-year-old son asks to bake something (himself), especially something from his ethnic heritage, well history, nostalgia, and pride tell me to say yes. My oldest son asked to make cheese rolls (or buchta in Czech) which is one of his favorite sweets. We didn't get started until late on a Friday night, after dinner out, after going to see the new Percy Jackson movie, after a trip to the grocery store to get the ingredients because I hadn't planned well. But we did it. How could I discourage such an urge?

Cheese rolls are not dinner rolls with cheese on them; they are jelly-roll type sweets of yeasted dough filled with sweetened cream cheese. We used my grandmother Anita (Morkovsky) Kallus' recipe, which is below. A buchta can actually have in it some of the same things that kolaches are filled with... poppyseed, apricots, cream cheese, but also pecans, brown sugar, raisins or whatever else might strike your fancy. They can also be shaped so that the dough is braide…