Friday, August 26, 2011

Foods that Make me Glad I'm Czech

It would be unthinkable to be fascinated with the foodways of your own culture, but not like the food. I genuinely love a lot of Texas-Czech foods and there aren't many that I come across normally that I would turn down. There is something elemental about sausage and sauerkraut... the tang of the cabbage and the richness of the pork. It's truly one of my favorite things to eat, if done right. Add noodles to it and it's the perfect comfort food. And have you ever bought an apricot kolach from Weikel's early in the morning fresh out of the oven? Who would not want to eat one every day for breakfast?

And the list goes on to include chicken noodle soup at our extended family Christmas gathering... a rich broth with homemade noodles from Mrs. Bujnoch in Hallettsville served with chicken salad sandwiches on white bread. I have to take a styrofoam, Saran Wrap-covered plate full to eat in the car on the way back to Austin. I love cold salmon and potato salad on Christmas Eve, buttery apple strudel, and more sausage. I love pan sausage in Hruska's klobasnik with sauerkraut, City Market's jalapeno sausage on the grill, Elgin hot links in a warm tortilla with mustard.

I've been thinking about the Czech foods I love as I do research for the cookbook I've been working on half-heartedly for years. Only now I'm working on it whole-heartedly. As I pour through community cookbooks, heritage society newsletters and magazine articles, looking for recipes, I'm creating menus in my head from all the delicious dishes I have yet to try, like cream soup with potatoes, pork cheeks with saukraut, wilted lettuce salad with bacon, pickled peaches, baked sweet rice, and homemade beet wine. 

However, there's the reality that Texas-Czechs are a frugal people who cooked many parts of animals that I, let's say, haven't developed a taste for yet. If I want my cookbook to truly capture the variety of traditional food in the state, I'm going to have make some culinary leaps of faith. I'm running across recipes for things like, gulp, breaded pigs feet, scrambled eggs and brains, pickled beef tongue, and head sausage. Not sure how I'm going to tackle this task yet, except to solicit some really brave recipe testers. Luckily, I pride myself on not being a picky eater and I don't get grossed out cutting up a chicken. I've never actually handled a foot, brain or tongue before, though. Maybe I could contract with Kocurek's Charcuterie to test the recipes and let me just come over and taste them?

Because the cookbook I want to write won't just be about kolaches and sausage. I want to capture the variety of ways people adapted to resources here in Texas after they immigrated, and how those adaptations created the cuisine we know as Texas-Czech (not really Czech food in Texas.) If industrious 1st generation Texas-Czechs utilized the whole hog, then I want to include those recipes in the book. And I certainly couldn't include a recipe without testing it... 2 or 3 times. I can imagine the scene now as I call my 12-year-old to the dinner table and he passes out.

But I'll cross that bridge (or pickle that tongue) when I come to it. For now, I'm going to pay homage to a few of the well-loved, time-tested foods that have inspired me to write the book to begin with.

Gene Marie Bohuslav's fantasy-colored ruzicky (rosettes.)
Moravia church picnic 2011 - fried chicken, stew, sauerkraut, green beans, buttered potatoes, white bread and sweet tea.
Kolaches from the best place to buy them in Austin.
My man braiding vanocka Christmas Eve morning.



2 comments:

  1. Please post your Wilted Lettuce Salad with bacon recipe.

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  2. Sorry for the response time lag. This recipe came from the cookbook called "Domaci Kucharstvi" by the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church in Dubina, TX, copyright 1990. Here it is copied straight from the book. Let me know what you think! And thanks for reading my blog.

    Hlavkovy Salat S Spekem (Wilted Lettuce)
    1/2 head lettuce
    1/2 lb. bacon
    1 tsp. sugar
    1 tbsp. vinegar
    1/2 small onion (chopped)
    2 eggs (boiled and chopped)
    salt and pepper to taste

    Fry bacon and cut into pieces. Fry onion in the drippings until light brown. Add sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper to the drippings along with the bacon. Tear lettuce into small pieces and put in a bowl. Pour mixture over lettuce and stir in the chopped eggs.

    ReplyDelete