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Štědrý Večer 2012

Since I was a teenager, my parents have hosted dinner on Štědrý večer (Christmas Eve) Texas-Czech style. I could write a small book about this meal, but will settle for this post. The meal is the same one my mother ate when she was growing up (and we went to my grandmother's for when I was younger) and many of the dishes are, in fact, the same or similar to those her mother ate when she was growing up. We are, as a family, very proud of this meal, since my mother is the only one of her seven siblings who has carried on the culinary traditions. We have the same dishes every year; most have some Czech background.

To begin the meal, we have a meatless soup that traditionally has every foodstuff available at the time in it to ask the universe for a good harvest for all crops in the coming year... vegetables dried and fresh, legumes, a grain. In our house, the soup has evolved into a peppery vegetable soup with "homemade" noodles. This year, the soup was thick with potatoes…

Christmas Markets in West/Prague

There are so many things going on this month that I could write about from Czech organization Christmas parties to food at family gatherings. But because there's so much going on, I have little time to write. Trying to create Christmas memories for two boys and juggle a full time job and time-consuming hobbies is really bearing down on me this year. I'm going to do several posts in the next two weeks that may have lots of photos but less in-depth writing. This is the first.

In 2008, my mother, brother and I traveled to the Czech Republic in December to visit relatives and friends and to shop the Prague Christmas markets. The market on the Old Town Square was spectacular, made more so because we were there on the eve of St. Nicholas Day. The photo above is an outdoor stage where there were singing groups, bands and skits.  Below is a photo of a man in the square dressed as an unofficial St. Nicholas. Besides the kiosks with traditional food (palacinky, sausages, cookies, mulle…

St. Nicholas Day and Tangerines

Saint Nicholas will be coming to visit my two boys this week on December 6th... the day designated by the Catholic Church to honor the saint who is the patron of children. In many European countries (including the Czech Republic,) children hang their stocking or place shoes by the fireplace the night of December 5th, knowing they'll be filled overnight with small treats by St. Nick.



Growing up, I always felt the celebration of this holiday was unique to Texas Czechs. I never met another child who knew what it was and, as an adult, only other Texas Czechs seem to know about it. And usually those adults I've met who do know it only have vague memories of the meaning and the activities surrounding it. That's more interesting when you consider that the name Santa Claus evolved from Sinterklaas, a short form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas.) There are a few places in the state that have public events for the holiday, including the Czech Center Museum Houston which hos…

Peach, Pear, Poppy, Prune, Pecan

Last week I did a kolach-making demo at the monthly meeting of the Austin Czech Historical Association (ACHA.) I was worried that I'd be "preaching to the choir", so thought I'd focus my attention on filings rather than the basics of how to bake kolaches. Poeple tend to make the big three at home (prune, apricot, cheese) and though I'm not a fan of non-traditional fillings, there are others that are worthy of being made. I was actually surprised by how few people at the meeting raised their hand when I asked who made kolaches themselves. I did end up talking about the whole process, but did a handout of assorted filling recipes I'd collected.  

For the demo, I made prune, cottage cheese, cabbage, and poppyseed fillings. The cabbage and prune fillings were very good and I've included them below. One older man at the meeting tasted the cabbage filling from the bowl and smiled as if he was momentarily transported back to his childhood. It is not a taste for e…

Kallus Reunion 2012

Yes, it's ANOTHER reunion post. I feel like I've done too many of these, but I go (generally) to four reunions a year (Morkovksy, Kallus, Orsak and Hahn/Zielonka.) They're so full of family and food and other things this blog is supposed to be about that it's hard not to write about them. The Kallus reunion was last Saturday at the church hall in St. Mary's, outside of Hallettsville on FM 340 in Lavaca County. Kallus is my mother's maiden name.



The bad news - only 75 people attended this year, down from 100 in 2011. The good news - the poeple, music and food. They were 75 wonderful people, clearly committed to maintaining family ties. There were lots of traditional dishes on the long food tables and a keg of Shiner. Three relatives brought instruments this year -- two guitars and an accordion -- and the music was sweet. It was lovely to hear Al Mladenka playing Czech waltzes on the accordion as we ate lunch. And in the afternoon, people sang along to "She&#…

So What if No One Knows How to Make Kolaches?

I was recently babysitting my nieces and asked what they like to eat for breakfast. The older one, Eleni, said "Well, we're Greek, so we like to eat toast, cheese and olives." This statement made me both happy and sad. I was happy that she identified strongly with her father's cultural heritage, but she's almost as Czech as she is Greek, so I was sad that she didn't identify with her mother's cultural heritage, too. Or not for breakfast foods anyway. But of course she'd say she's Greek.... she's a first generation Texan on her father's side, she goes to a Greek school, has very Greek first and last names, learns Greek, her father speaks Greek and has favorite Greek and Cypriot foods, she goes to Greek festivals, has a grandfather that lives in Cyprus, and has visited Cyprus several times in her 7 years. 90 years ago when Eleni's maternal great-grandmother was 7, she did some of the exact same things and was a first generation Texan her…