Skip to main content

Kallus Reunion 2011

My mother's maiden name is Kallus and the family's reunion is one that we go to every year.  It's always within a few days of my birthday. (My partner thinks I have a family reunion every weekend, but it's actually four a year... Kallus, Morkovsky, Orsak and Zielonka.) Until last year, the Kallus reunion had been held for decades (literally since the 30s, I think) at the Wied Hall in, you guessed it, Wied, a teeny tiny community between Hallettsville and Shiner in Lavaca County. My great grandfather Kallus lived in Wied and owned a general store and post office in the early part of the 20th century. The story is that he and other families in the area pooled their money to build the hall so their daughters wouldn't have to go far for a dance. He donated the land, though the hall was actually moved across Alt. Highway90 at some point. It's an enigmatic old hall and I've always loved being there. It deserves a blog post on its own.


Last year the host family moved the reunion to St. Mary's church hall in, you guessed it, St. Mary's.... another tiny community near Hallettsville. This year our family followed suit and I heard that next year's host family has already reserved it, too. 


Interior of the church hall in St. Mary's before everyone arrived.
I guess air conditioning in early October in Texas makes a really big difference to people (the Wied hall has never had it.) The usual attendees are getting older and older and I'm sure that has something to do with the move. I'm ashamed to say that I have 24 first cousins and three siblings and only 4 of us went to the reunion this year. That's a pretty poor showing. So few members of my generation coupled with the fact that the reunion was not where it's been for the last 44 years of my life made the event a little surreal and a little sad.


The food was mostly your standard white people's reunion-in-Texas offerings... lots of macaroni and cheese, potato salad, fried chicken, rice casseroles with the usual nod to Czech-ness with sausage and bakery-bought cheese and poppyseed rolls. No revelations or "a-ha!" moments. The highlights were a homemade apple strudel and homemade sweet and sour pickles. The oddball veggie tray with hummus and FRESH green beans were very welcome by yours truly who is eating as a vegetarian this month. (Thanks Bo and Jerrica!) 




For years and years, I've been taking a notebook to reunions and walking the length of the food tables writing down every dish for posterity. This year, I decided to put a sheet at the sign-in table that said across the top "Please Tell Us What Dish You Brought." Most people wrote their dishes down dutifully after signing in and writing their name tag. I like to see the last names... Kallus, of course, Mladenka, Pesek, Rebicek, Belicek, Janak, Netardus, Klekar. Yes, I'm from a Czech family. But people didn't give me enough detail about what they brought for me to trust them with the task, writing "cake" instead of poppyseed cake, for example. So I'll have to go back to eyeballing dishes myself and then searching out the makers of the interesting ones, like a culinary stalker.


Of course, some things never change at the reunions. Small boys will gravitate toward each other even if they can't remember the last time they met.  They will throw toys on to the roof of the outdoor pavilion; they will get dusty and sweaty; they will sit under the dessert table and make themselves sick on cookies; they will try and scare the cows in the field next to the hall. (I actually grabbed the electric fence surrounding the field, wondering if it would shock me and... it shocked me. City girl.)


That's my left-leaning son in the middle with the peace sign t-shirt on. 
And everyone loves to visit with my grandmother, an in-law in the family, who is the last of her generation... the remaining aunt for the oldest attendees. They ask her to identify people in old family photos, take pictures with her, and tell her how their children and grandchildren are doing. Her birthday is on the 28th and we all sang to her twice for some reason. She deserves it. 


My grandmother visiting at the photo and check-in table.
I haven't mentioned the silent auction, the kids coloring table, Al Mladenka playing "Fulsom Prison" on my great grandmother's guitar, my 2-year old hiding in the closet full of roasters, my Dad holding court as kitchen master, and everyone waving goodbye to my grandmother as the nursing home bus drove her away in the afternoon. I love reunions. One more to go this year... Zielonka in November in Yorktown.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…

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…